Rivka bat Yael Razel Update: What You Can Do for Rivki

There haven’t been any big changes this week in Rivka bat Yael’s condition. Overall, Rivki has been struggling in recent days with some respiratory infections, and is still being kept in an induced coma in Hadassah Hospital’s ICU. What I hear over and over is that things are moving in the right direction, but very, very slowly. Rivki still desperately needs our prayers—please keep praying for Rivka bat Yael!

If you haven’t yet, until this Shabbat, you still have time to send a note of encouragement/blessing/support to Yael and Yonatan Razel, Rivki’s parents. Thank G-d, we have already collected close to 50 notes from moms in far-flung places like Moscow, Paris, Buenos Aires, Milwaukee. Reading these letters brings tears to my eyes, they are such a powerful expression of how beautiful and big-hearted you moms are. I am sure they will mean a great deal to Yael and Yonatan during this difficult time.

If I had to make up a list of 100 things that I would really, really rather NOT do, attending yet another lecture on the perils of speaking lashon hara (slander) would fall somewhere down there near waiting half and hour in line at the post office to buy a stamp, scrubbing the chicken soup pot on Saturday night, and combing my kids for lice (I will refrain from telling you whether attending such a lecture would rank higher or lower than any of these aforementioned activities).

But when I heard yesterday that Rivki’s father, Yonatan, had organized just such a lecture for Rivki’s recovery, I knew I had to go.

And the truth is that I’m happy I went, and not only for Rivki’s sake.

I realized last night that the topic of Shmirat Halashon bores me so terribly because I hear about it all the time BECAUSE I NEED to hear about it all the time. It’s not like learning the laws of preparing a cup of tea on Shabbat, that once you’ve learned them, you’ve got them. Not speaking lashon hara is a constant struggle, for all of us.

And that’s a big problem.

Here’s one of the many stories that the lecturer Rabbanit Avrahami shared with us last night:

Once there was a truck waiting at a red light, and all the cars behind him were beeping and beeping. A chorus of quacking cars. The truck driver assumed that the drivers were trying to pressure him to start driving before the light had turned green, so he just lifted up his chin and ignored them. But when he arrived at the construction site he had been headed for, he suddenly understood the truth. The cars had been beeping at him because the back door of his truck was open, and all of the sacks of powdered cement he had been transporting to his construction site were slowly emptying out as he drove. By the time he arrived at the building site, his truck was completely empty.

And that truck is you and me.

We wake up in the morning and greet our Creator with Modah Ani, wash our hands, feed our children, wake up our husbands so they can get to shul on time, take our kids to school and keep our cool no matter how crazy they try to drive us, and then come home and pray ourselves, and on and on. We moms go through our days collecting mitzvoth so that our souls over the course of the day become as packed full as those trucks full of those sacks of cement.

But when we speak badly about others, the back of our trucks open up, and our accumulated good deeds spill out, just like that cement spilled onto the asphalt. By the time we arrive at our final destination, the World to Come, our trucks will be empty.

And the worst kind of slander of all is the kind that is the easiest for us to let slip out from between our teeth…I am referring to the bad things we say about entire groups of Jews.


The Reform Jews
The Modern Orthodox Jews
The Secular Israelis
The Chabadnikim
The Charedim
The Carlebachers
The Chassidim
The Misnadgim
The Jews who go to that OTHER shul
The Left Wingers
The Right Wingers
The Jews from New York
The Jews just a touch to the left or to the right of where you stand on the religious spectrum

While speaking lashon hara about your new neighbor or your son’s teacher or your mother in law also opens up the back of your truck, can you imagine how many thousands of times worse it is to, with one slip of your tongue, malign all the millions of Jews living in the Tri-State Area?

So, Jewish mom, what can we do for Rivki? We can be a bit more careful about the way we speak about our fellow Jews. I also decided last night that I will (bli neder) dedicate myself to learning 2 halachot a day about the laws of proper speech, until Rivki is back sharing sandwiches and hee-hawing on the see-saw with my Moriah at the Rachel v’Leah Nursery School.

I decided I’m going to do it for Rivki, and I’m going to do it for me too.


  1. Ayalah Haas

    Awesome piece, Jenny!

    The rabbanit’s mashal (allegory) of the truck with the powdered sand seeping out is worth remembering.

    My favorite part is the sobering list you include, of the various “categories” we Jews may fall under. What a tinge of discomfort I personally felt as I read down the list and saw “Left Wingers,” “Right Wingers.” How easy it is to mock the other side – even if it’s over political views.

    May all of our increased efforts to clean up our way of speaking about other Jews be a zechus for the refuah shlema of Rivka bat Yael.

  2. Thank you!

  3. Liba Lomasky

    Wow, these are powerful words that make me think hard, and they hit me at an opportune moment. It is easiest to speak about those you are closest to that you really love the most. For Rivki, I will try with doubled effort not to waste all my good deeds by letting my mouth run amuck.

  4. miriam futterman

    thank you… this is the first time that i am reading this blog… i am grateful for it… and for you…. i will also learm SHmirat Haloshon..in her merit and for Mashiach to get here now….

  5. Tziona Achishena

    awakening awe for our Creator and the awesome power that we hold in our tongues
    may we use it for the good…
    refuah shalaymah!

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