The Matzav Shmoooze: An Insensitive Email After My Life Was Destroyed By the Hurricane

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hurricane-sandy10Dear Editor,

This is my response to an email I received from an organization, connecting the recent hurricane to lashon hara. I have copied the email I got from them on the bottom.

Shame on you!!!!

Did you think for a second that one of these emails would go to a flood victim like myself?! Do you think any person with the slightest bit of sensitivity knows that you don’t rub salt in the wound of someone that is hurting?!

Even if it’s true, that the entire the entire Klall Yisroel sits all day and speak lashon hora and we got punished, do you think it’s a normal thing for you to send out an email while people are picking up the pieces of their lives, basically saying: “You/we spoke lashon hora and this is why this is happening to you/us”?

I know you will respond and say: “That’s not what we meant. We are trying to take something positive out of this and hope it will lead to change.” That may be true, but there are different phases of this. The first stage is showing emotional, financial and loving support for your fellow Jews in pain. Once the wounds have healed, then we can look back at it and see what we can gain. Your organization skipped the main part that makes the Jews the Jews.

An organization of such great importance and with an amazing cause should not be making such insensitive mistakes of this magnitude.

Someone needs to apologize with a full page ad in all the papers.


A victim who probably brought this on himself

Here is what their email stated:

The Ben Yehoyada explains that hurricanes are created by loshon hora. The following is a short synopsis. See below for the original.

The connection between hurricanes and the sanctity of speech can be seen in the pasuk in Amos (4:13) which says “Hashem creates mountains and storms to teach a person what he has spoken.”

The posuk starts with Hashem creating mountains and ends with mentioning the speech of man.


Hashem created giant mountains whose sole purpose is to diminish the winds of His great storms. Without those mountains, chas v’shalom, when hurricanes strike they would totally destroy all buildings and houses. Instead Hashem first sends the winds to strike the mountains, which diminish their great strength, before “allowing” them to strike places where people live.

But why, asks the Ben Yehoyada, is there a need for such great hurricane winds in the first place?

He answers “Hurricanes are created by the aveira of improper speech, loshon hora.”

The Ben Yehoyada teaches us that after witnessing a great hurricane, every person should learn great musar from it, to guard themselves from the sin of improper speech.

{ Newscenter}


  1. sorry to the letter writer on your loss, Hamakom Yemalei Chesroncho.
    I must disagree on everything that you wrote.
    No one is trying to judge you.
    This is no different than anytime the Torah tells us that we will be punished for our sins. Look in Ki Savo and Bechukosai for a detailed list.
    The people who died in the Holocaust were all deserving of it, no different than if a 90 year old person dies. It is all decreed by God
    We are just trying to find reasons why these things happen, and the Ben Yehoyada is very clear on this.
    For someone to point to a victim and say, “YOU ARE GUILTY” would be wrong on many levels, and the Torah does not advocate laughing at or shaming those that suffer misfortune.
    May we all merit the days when no one will suffer, and until we should be careful with our speech and the other 612 Commandments.

    I dont think he they expected you to read it. I think it was advertizing a warning to others to correct their midot. I understand your anger as i saw many homes destroyed near lakewood new jersey. People are sensitive to your pain. BUT WHEN HAS HISTORY SHOWN ISRAEL REACTS BEST?
    that we will try to improve ourselves
    Hashem please give me th strength..

    Torah teaches us that a the time of suffering is not the time to teach the lesson…
    but you are in a process..


  3. Rav Hutner said the definition of not having Daas is to come into a bais avel and say in a booming voice “gam zu litovah”

    It is true but the wrong place to say.

  4. The email does not say that those affected were the cause, or that one should feel guilty based on the damage they recieved. all it says is that we bring about a storm through loshon hara. this refers to all of klal yisroel, not those it hits. maybe it was too soon, i am not disagreeing with you on that, but your misrepresentation of what they say is not fair. this whole idea is based on the Rambam who says that all puronios come because of us, and we must learn from them. this is referring even to those which happen to non-Jews. obviously, if a tragedy occurs to non-Jews because of Jews, the cause is not connected to who it hits. the rambam says a very strong loshen about this, calling eople who prefer not learn from it “achzorim”. again, maybe too soon, but certainly not how you represeted it, and something that should not offend anyone who is not looking to be. rather than attack, dismiss it as a mistake, because the words are true, just badly timed. wishing you much hatzlocho, and may Hashem send you everything you need.

  5. Am Adam chashuv said that we do not have neviim to know the cause of the hurricane, but we CAN use it as an opportunity to be mechazek in whatever area, be it in X, Y, or Z.

  6. I was affected, albeit not as you obviously were.

    But I don’t take offense. Whenever anything negative happens in our lives, we should ask ourselves why it happened and what we should learn from it.

    We have to learn from the teachings of Chazal.

    I have no doubt that lashon harah causes terrible things to the klal. Did it cause Sandy? Could be.

    Instead of taking it personally, maybe you should take a breath, step back, and try to learn from it.

    The blessing is that you are still alive. Your personal possessions can be replaced. Now you can continue to live your life and become a better person.

    I see no problem with the email.

    My deepest feelings go out to you and the others that were affected by the storm as you were/are.

  7. Dear victim,
    Do you want the truth to be altered so you shoulnt be irritated or do you want to know why this happened? Everything that happens to us is for us to learn from or it gets repeated. Your anger is misplaced and should be directed against the loshon hora speakers, not the messengers.
    That aside, i am very sorry for your loss and know that everyone else is. May Hashem repair your losses and give you much more good and simchos than you ever had.

  8. To the victim obviously noone can say a specific person deserved a punishment but just as obviously the gemara does list sins that bring about such onshore so as a rule there are reasons for things and it is not meant to point fingers at individuals it is so the rest of us take mustard

  9. As it says in Chazal, “Ayn menachemem be’sha’as shmaiso mutal lefonov”. Basically it means don’t try to “comfort” someone immediately after the event. It will do just the opposite!

    Certainly here when people’s lives were literally destroyed a person needs to heed these words.


  10. Those that are quick to play Navi should take a lesson from the real Navi’im. prior to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh the Navi told us what we were doing wrong – after the Navi offered words of comfort.

  11. Even Mussar has a time and place. At times it seems the Mussar is to harsh when at the same time it can seem the Mussar is not penetrating.

    Our Torah dictates how one should behave, act and treat a fellow Yid. Through the stories of Chumash and Navi we learn lifetime lessons. Through some stories we learn to be soft and caring and through others we learn to be strong and to the point.

    The delicate challenge is in our Emunah. Do we believe everything happens for the good? Do we believe Hashem is in total control and nothing would or could ever happen unless it was his desire for it to happen? Do we believe this all of time or only when it makes sense to us.

    Hamokom Yemalay Chesronom is said to anyone who lost anything.

    Hamokom Yinachem Eschem is said to anyone who lost a loved one.

    Both are tragic, both have a reminder that Hashem is here and in control and both are said immediately following the tragedy itself.

    Hashem should give us all the ability to deal with this wake up call he has sent. For those who feel they know Hashems reasons why things happen – I am not on your level. For those able to accept the Mussar and internalize it, I am not on your level. For those not willing to accept the Mussar, I am not on your level.

    I am in pain and searching for answers. I am very interested in understanding the Midda Kneged Midda of why we had to suffer this much. I hear where the original letter is coming from and accept. I hear where the hurt letter writer is coming from and I accept.

    You are both right!

  12. Who sent this tripe? Quoting Tanach and Chazal to people who have just seen their lives destroyed? Have we gotten so wrapped up in our own self-righteous rhetoric that we can say things like this without even thinking?

    Ona’as devarim is also an aveirah. Hurting people directly with words is just as horrible as hurting them indirectly.

  13. First of all, I don’t think that this is what the organization intended, albeit they were insensitive. The thing that bothers me is that everyone feels that they know what Hashem had in mind, they know why He does things, they know what He is thinking. Anyone who claims this should keep their foolish mouths shut and anyone who claims to be a Navi, again, keep your foolish mouth shut.

  14. We are not neviim to really know what caused it, , and I don’t think the organization singled you out; they meant it as one of the aveiros which can cause hurricanes. I think they meant collectively we all have to do our own ‘housecleaning’. Even someone in LA still feels affected by the hurricane. We are all connected. The organization never meant that the victims of the hurricane were any more responsible to do soul searching than those who were not immediately affected. Don’t take it personally.

  15. Everyone needs to look within themselves & be a “Baal Teshuva”. No one has the right to surmise why these tragedies happen, since we don’t have Neviim today. For a person who hasn’t been affected in a personal way B”H by the enormity of this tragedy, to start preaching is barking up the wrong tree. And we all know how many trees were toppled by this unusual storm. I also think that as Yidden we have to feel the tsaar of our neighbor/friend/& family. That’s what sets us apart from the goyim. The Chesed shown in Far Rockaway/Woodmere/Lawrence areas to the victims is unparalleled; the volunteering to stay up all night to watch for looters, the meals being served, & the brand new clothing being distributed, all I can say is Mi K’amcha Yisrel!

  16. The only thing common about common-sense is the name! I cried for you as I read your pain-filled letter! You know nobody meant bad but simply lacking in common-sense! Stupidity is a better metaphor! Keep strong! I’m trying to feel your pain although I don’t think I ever can! Keep STRONG! You are a hero! Your strength of charachter is a leeson for us all! KEEP STRONG!

  17. Boruch Hashem many people responded sensitively to this woman who is obviously bearing a lot of pain. Every message from the Torah should be seen as chizuk. As we say, ezri m’im Hashem, does not mean, my help is from Hashem. The Chofetz Chaim zl says the p’shat is, my help is from those who are with Hashem. Those who are trying to help us learn from such a tragedy are in this category.

    My Rov in a different city said a similar idea from one of the Kadmonim about the koach hadibbur having to do with storms, and he stressed, as if we need to say it, that no one knows darkei Hashem. But to not darshen it? To not find meaning? It is as one of the writers above said b’shem HaRambam that is cruelty!I don’t want to be in such a category! So we try to find meaning b’derech ha’Avodah, so that we are taking direction from the Heiligeh Torah and not walking around aimlessly not knowing where to begin because we’ve suffered a tragedy.

    This is the Yiddishe Way. I’d say they sent it out precisely at the right time. If they sent it out later it would like they wanted a hand out because they’re saying something they believe in at the expense of someone elses pain. Saying it when no one has anything to give because their lives are in ruin, is precisely the time it is lishmah and when we need direction and the Torah’s guidance. Im lo achshav, aimosai?

    I wish this Yiddeneh menucha and lots of koach to omed b’nisayon. I pray she sees that her help is M’Im Hashem Who is the Only One who can fill in what she’s lost and hold her tight in her time of calamity. Klal Yisroel is with you!

  18. I find it hard to believe that if this letter writer truly suffered the way he/her claims to have, would this be the most important thing on your agenda? If I G-D forbid had my house blown away and all my belongings destroyed, I would be pre occupied in trying to sort things out to my family, rather than writing letters on web sites. Having said that, mussar takes effect at the time of tradgedy, not years later. We all need mussar and wake up calls. This email was not addressed to anyone in particular, rather to the Klal at large.
    We all remember clearly the Kletzky tragedy. We were all immediately reminded that we must stengthen our bein odom lachaveiroh, and it was a huge nechama for them when they saw that klal yisrael came together. Why is this any different? I am quite sure that the people who were severely affected by this, would not mind the fact for klal yisrael to get together and be mechazek ourselves.

  19. Prophesy has ended years ago so the cause of any everyday tzar is still unknown. Any disaster is a wake-up call to remind the world that a ‘creator’ runs the world.

  20. Had this organization had their offices demolished would they be saying it this way, I wonder.
    Let’s judge them favorably and say they erred. And let’s advise them to stay out of commenting on future stories and storms.

  21. The email was theologically specious at best. The gemara DOES NOT say that hurricanes come from lashon hara. It says that hurricanes don’t come at night.

    The ben Yehoyada makes the drasha and connection to lashon hara. It’s not such a big name like a tanna or amora or a rishon that we should take it so seriously…

  22. ??? ???????? ?? ??? ????? ?????
    Any inter/national tradegy comes for us – FOR US – to take stock and LEARN from it. We ALL need improvement somewhere.
    Do it!

  23. Let me clarify a few things:
    – I am not arguing the emails point, I am saying their tact and timing is shameful. Right now there should be nothing but love and help. Yesterday, a couple of married guys from Flatbush knocked on my door and asked “how can we help”. That’s the appropriate response.I’m sure my critics would love it if a Hatzola member rushing him to a hospital with a heart attack tells him in the ambulance “studies show eating all that chullent and kishke causes heart disease and stroke”.
    – It’s terrible when people say “this is what caused X”. When a tzara happens, it’s our job to look at ourselves as individuals and as a community and see how we can improve. But no one person or organization can say why something was brought on people. Unless they have spoken to G-d, which I’m quite sure no of them have.

  24. A pox on all your homes.
    Now that you’ve been hit with tragedy, now that you have had your world burst and tasted the bitter sting of pain, and you’re on the receiving end, NOW you’re offended by everyone connecting the dots suggesting why tragedies occur?
    Where were you and where was your offense and where was your sense of outrage when people felt it was ok for years to suggest to Aveilim or Baalei Nisyonos the reasons for our tragedies?
    It was ok for us to endure the indignity of the suggestion, but not ok for the same nonsense to be thrown your way?
    NOW you wake up to the insanity that’s been pervading our communities?!
    Spare me your outrage.
    It took a hurricane to rock your world before you became sensitized to what’s been plaguing our communities for years?

    Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.
    Los Angeles, CA

  25. There were 8.5 million people left without power at one point after the storm…that’s more affected people than there are Jews in the world. To worry only about the Jews whose lives were changed, and to argue that this is all somehow a message for the Jewish people, is completely conceited and short sighted…

  26. The contents of the email may be true. But they are supposed to be for YOU to say to yourself in YOUR times of hardship, not to give mussar to other people. The issuer of that letter is a fool. Let’s see how much mussar he dishes out when God is finished with him.

  27. Multiple choice question:
    The hurricane Sandy was brought about by
    [ ] Same gender marriage laws
    [ ] Bloomberg’s meztitzah bapeh law
    [ ] Loshon HaRah
    [ ] Other ___________ (please specify)

  28. Organizations that exist to advocate for a particular mitzvah are tempted to link every big event to their own special concern. They may be right in a given case and they may be wrong. It’s overreaching for them to insist they do know.

  29. How about this -The hurricane came because we are not moving to Israel – like the Chasam Sofer says all pain that happens in galus is because we no give a care about our holy land and yerushalayim. Lets pick up and move!

  30. You, sir, are a disgrace to Frum Yidden everywhere with your insensitivity to a serious issue. Maybe you should stop skipping Mussar Seder.

  31. People are constantly sinning. Based on my unscientific observation, the sin of leshon hara has greatly decreased since the 1960s, when I first became aware of it.

    On the other hand, doubt the day will come when it disppears entirely. It’s too easy and too tempting.

    Since there are always sins and always disasters, any connection someone wants to make between one and the other can never be proven false.

  32. By the way, a bit of googling has disclosed that the “Ben Yehoyada” is the selfsame person as the “Ben Ish Chai”–namely Yoseph Hayyim of Baghdad (1832 – 1909). Ben Ish Chai was his work on halacha, while Ben Yehoyada is his commentary on the aggadot in the Talmud.

    Probably everyone but me knew that, but I’ll bet there were at least a few people who didn’t. I must confess that I don’t own a copy of that work, though it’s available on

  33. Regarding the Comment from Baruch C. Cohen, Esq. Time November 5, 2012 at 11:34 PM:

    If you’re going to wax righteously indignant, at least check your targets out ahead of time. Maybe your bombastic, insulting email itself is part of the problem.

  34. Many people have suggested that it is a sign that Jews should move out of NY/NJ & move to Israel. I may have made the wrong decision to move INTO NY, and my home destroyed because I have made myself too comfortable here. Or maybe I speak too much Loshon Hora. Or maybe I didn’t stand up to the toaeiva that is pervading us. I am not OFFENDED by these comments, but take them to heart and hopefully improve my situation and the Kedusha of the klal. The fact that someone is highly offended by a general statement from chazal, seems to suggest to me, that they are either A)Has a guilty conscience and trying to quell it, or B)Just trying to stir up machlokes & sinas chinom where there isn’t any.

  35. #35, you are completely wrong! Hakol bshvil Yisroel. If you read mussar seforim (someone help me out here!) Hashem can make an earthquake in Japan for 3 million goyim, just for the sake of one Yid doing teshuva in America.
    It is not shortsighted, it’s part of our heritage. Hashem built the world for us. (Read the commentaries on the first possuk in Beraishis)

  36. The comments to the letter writer are quite repulsive. A friend of mine, not affected by the storm, had already received is letter and was outraged. This is CRUMKEIT not FRUMKEIT. The sad thing is that so many of the commenters actually believe that this response is the FRUM response. It makes me wonder whether they really understand what it means to be a frum yid. Where is your sensitivity? THere is a time and place for everything. It is NOT the time to use this tragic event to fundraise for your organization. While the Ben Yehoyada did say this, there are thousands of other statements of chazal, rishonim and achronim that can be cherrypicked to use as fundraising slogans for every organization thinkable. It is simply not appropriate. For some of you to MUSSAR the letter writer and tell him not to be so sensitive is simply deplorable.

  37. “A pox on all your homes.”

    Is that supposed to be a bracha from a Kohen? The author is objecting to something that hurt him, and you are lambasting him for not objecting to this insensitivity before he noticed it?

  38. How about this theory: Hashem brought the hurricane because He saw that Romney was catching up and He wanted Obama to win.

    I don’t necessarily believe it, but it’s as plausible as any of the other theories.

    There is one person in the Torah who said that he knew what Hashem was thinking. That was Bilaam (Bemidbar 24:16).

    Of course we should always try to improve ourselves (do teshuvah), hurricane or no hurricane.

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