Sensitivities

Sensitivities

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  • January 22, 2019

To cause outright animosity between Jews is to speak rechilus; to effect a minor degree of ill feeling between Jews is to speak Avak Rechilus. An example of the latter is where one relates that someone spoke about the listener in a manner which is neither derogatory nor harmful, but which may cause the listener to be disappointed with that individual. The classic example of this is where Hashem spoke critically to Avraham of Sarah for her having expressed incredulity upon hearing an angel (disguised as a wayfarer) say that she would bear a child. Hashem said, “Why did Sarah laugh, to say, ‘Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged?’ ” (Bereishis 18:13). In fact, Sarah had said, “And my husband is old.” (V. 12). Talmud Yerushalmi (Pe’ah 1:1) states that to repeat such a statement would be to speak avak rechilus. Now, to say that a man of ninety-nine is old is neither derogatory nor damaging. However, it is a bit discomforting for a person of advanced age to hear that his spouse speaks of him as an “old man;” therefore, to report such a remark is to speak avak rechilus.

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