Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Teves 5764 - December 31, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








A Whole Army On the Watch

by M. Chevroni

Slowly but steadily Rebbetzin Wurzburger is creating a whole army of Jews who watch their tongue, one battalion after another of soldiers who are careful to avoid loshon hora and spend time learning hilchos loshon hora. One day, hopefully soon, we might even see the day when we have to strain our memories to recall when we last spoke loshon hora and why.

This dream is gradually becoming a reality through the devoted efforts of Notzrei Haloshon activists like Rebbetzin S. Wurzburger of Jerusalem (originally from Detroit), for whom nothing is too difficult and nothing dearer than raising consciousness on shemiras haloshon for yet another Jewish soul.

The activities pursued by this and other similar organizations reach every stratum, starting with children -- the flag-bearers of shemiras haloshon. Many of them began to hear about loshon hora and avak loshon hora at gatherings held after candlelighting on Shabbos evening in various neighborhoods.

Now this project has gathered momentum. During Succos, for example, Mishmeres Hasholom and Notzrei Loshon organized special gatherings for children in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Thousands of children filled the halls where they were held. The idea of presenting the halochos of shemiras haloshon -- which are not easy -- in an interesting manner was very innovative. Children sit and listen to fascinating programs that infuse them with the importance of shemiras haloshon along with values such as ahavas Yisroel and limud lekaf zechus.

Say what you may, it is always thrilling to see children from every background sitting together, listening to prominent rabbonim addressing them and singing together with musical accompaniment. Some of the songs were even composed especially for these gatherings. The children bring this atmosphere into their homes -- another sign of our upside- down generation.

Leading educators were charged with the task of developing program material for these gatherings, including HaRav Moshe Kletzkin, HaRav Meir Tzimrot, HaRav Ben Shoshan, HaRav Blau and HaRav Markovitz.

Today Mishmeres Hasholom operates in over 40 neighborhoods around the country. More than 30,000 families are members and thousands of ladies representing Mishmeres Hasholom organize shiurim on sefer Chofetz Chaim in their buildings, studying at least two halochos per day. In many homes families commit to at least one hour a day of extra stringency in shemiras haloshon. Monthly prize drawings are just the pinch of salt used to improve the taste.

What do these festive gatherings provide?

HaRav Trovitz of Notzrei Loshon does not seem to understand the question. "Hundreds of families have joined the Mishmeres Hasholom circle following the gatherings and the accompanying publicity," he says. "People have made commitments to regularly attend a shiur on the Chofetz Chaim's seforim and to be more stringent in maintaining pure speech."

Looking for More Clients

Although these organizations are found in chareidi areas across the country, shemiras haloshon standards are not uniform everywhere. "In Jerusalem there is a project called Mishmeres Hasholom," says HaRav Trovitz. "It's really a shame that in a big city like Bnei Brak there is nobody to take on this important project. On the other hand, in Bnei Brak there is a project consisting of study and tests for some 1,500 girls from 7th to 10th grades from all backgrounds and streams, and boruch Hashem new branches have been born out of this project in Ofakim, Zichron Yaakov, Kiryat Gat and elsewhere. We are looking for an energetic activist to organize these tests in an important city like Jerusalem.

"We are about to print another 10,000 copies of the book, Chofetz Chaim -- Shemiras Haloshon, and we are also about to print another 8,000 copies of Ahavas Chesed. By the way, ahavas chesed is being pushed incessantly by HaRav Moshe Chaim Gura, in memory of his wife, a"h."

In all conversations with people promoting shemiras haloshon one senses the financial restraints, which place limits on many endeavors, stop development and even restrict organized activity.

"Despite the strain there is constant activity," says HaRav Trovitz. "The 52nd edition of shemiras haloshon books in pocket format has been released. Now that's a real best- seller!"

And there are also other plans in the works, including a special notebook-edition in which the daily halochos will appear on separate sheets. "This will make it possible to hang the Shemiras Haloshon Daf Yomi in elevators, in yeshivas, in teachers' rooms. It's very easy to learn while traveling using such a sheet."

It's a great idea, but how will you finance it?

"On the right side of every page will be a space to memorialize someone who has passed away le'ilui nishmosoh on the yahrtzeit. For $50, people will study le'ilui nishmas the niftar, whose name will appear on the right-hand side of the page. We are nearing publication, but a few pages are still available for purchase, in accordance with the yahrtzeit, of course."


Take the chavrusas idea, for instance. A quite simple idea, but like all brilliant inventions its simplicity is what makes it so fabulous.

"Women call me," explains Rebbetzin Alkichen, who organizes chavrusas in Jerusalem, "and ask for a chavruso to learn two daily halochos."

How do they know to come to you?

"My phone number is publicized by Notzrei Loshon. (There is also a phone number of English speakers.) I have a list of women who turn to me and when a woman asks, I find her a study partner."

Do women request a study partner of a certain type?

"No. I work according to the order in which the ladies call me. But sometimes I receive special requests. One woman requested a "strong" chavruso who would help her keep up her study routine and strengthen her in shemiras haloshon.

How do you know who fits that description?

"I simply ask the woman I think would be appropriate if she has ever studied the halochos, if she is consistent in her study, if she tries hard to watch what she says. Requests are also made by young ladies who want to study with other young ladies. But usually there are no special demands. They receive a phone number and a chavruso is formed.

Is demand high?

At first there were a lot of requests. After chavrusas were arranged there was a period of tranquility. Since then every so often there is a new wave. It generally happens after an article on the subject gets published. I estimate that today, in Jerusalem alone, there are hundreds and hundreds of pairs and, using simple arithmetic, that comes out to thousands of women who study in chavruso every day. In other parts of Eretz Yisroel, a conservative estimate is that there are about ten thousand women who study in a chavruso in Eretz Yisroel alone. Not everyone enjoys learning in chavruso. Some start a chavruso and then continue on their own." Or with family members.

"At first, when I wanted to begin seriously studying the halochos of shemiras haloshon, a chavruso was arranged for me," says C.C. "At a certain time early in the evening either my phone or her phone would ring, depending on whose turn it was to call.

"But with time I felt that for me it was more convenient to study alone. I believe the chavruso is what drew me into the matter. Today I cannot let a day go by, no matter how tired I may be, without learning two halochos. I feel something's missing."

Rebbetzin T. of Jerusalem says, "Learning with a chavruso provides a lot of chizuk and is very instructive." As a rule she feels learning the halochos of shemiras haloshon betters her avodas Hashem in every matter tied to relationships with others. "Human relations improve greatly, because those who study the halochos of shemiras haloshon learn how to see the good in others. They learn how to see, to observe and to be careful, for the power of one word is tremendous. Learning in chavruso makes me commit."

Rebbetzin T. sees speech as an amazing gift HaKodosh Boruch Hu gave to mankind, a gift that must be used correctly if one does not want to be like the servant in the following parable: Once a king gave his faithful servant a great gift: royal vestments. What did the servant do with this gift? He put the clothes on his donkey. Later the king saw the donkey dressed in royal attire. He was not pleased.

"It's easy to destroy with a single word," she says. "To build is much harder."

What do you see as the advantage of the chavrusas?

"Beyond the habit one acquires--daily, organized learning -- many bonds of friendship form between the women. Women who may not have met, got to know and become friends with another woman. Women are incapable of learning without asking, `How are you doing?' or `How was your visit to the doctor this morning?' And as long as the halochos are learned, this is just fine and fosters growth. We can learn from everybody, for all of our life is a learning process, from the day we're born."

There is also another arrangement, a one-sided chavruso called Kol Haloshon.

"I tried everything," says Rebbetzin C. "I studied with a chavruso, but my schedule did not work out with my chavruso's schedule. I tried to study the halochos every day from a book, but I was not always able to concentrate, so I began to listen to the daily Kol Haloshon shiur. It really put me on a daily study track and in my opinion it is definitely recommendable.

Optional Tests

But women are not the only ones studying shemiras haloshon. "In yeshivos ketanos, yeshivos gedolos and kollelim the Chofetz Chaim's seforim are studied in depth just like other seforim by the acharonim," says HaRav Yochonon Tucker, who coordinates and checks shemiras haloshon tests in Jerusalem yeshivas. "Yeshivas like Chevron, Ponevezh (both the yeshiva ketanoh and the yeshiva gedoloh), Kol Torah, Ohr Elchonon, Meor HaTalmud and dozens of other yeshivas. The Notzrei Loshon Association put out a booklet containing tests on Chofetz Chaim and Shemiras Haloshon. Many participate in the series of 54 tests. Once a week, a test is administered, covering a list of material noted in the booklet."

Where are the tests held?

"In the yeshivas themselves. The matter has to be coordinated with the yeshiva administration and with us. A yeshiva that wants to conduct the tests contacts us and we send the test booklets, which are updated periodically of course."

In every yeshiva someone is appointed to take responsibility for collecting the tests. Once a week they are all brought to HaRav Tucker's home by the appointed collectors.

What is the overall level?

"The tests show they study the matter and understand it. They study Chofetz Chaim with the Be'er Mayim Chaim for certain paragraphs and they study Shemiras Haloshon simultaneously."

What do the test-takers receive in addition to knowledge of shemiras haloshon?

"Every test entitles the taker to ten shekels toward the purchase of seforim if the grade was 60 or more. Grades from 57-60 entitle the taker to five shekels for seforim."

The test consists of ten questions, of which eight cover Chofetz Chaim and two are taken from Shemiras Haloshon. "The test is administered in writing. Every page is divided in half -- questions and a place to write the answers. Every fourth week there is a review of all of the material studied during the preceding three weeks and once every three months review tests are held on all of the material studied. These tests are harder because they require reviewing a large mass of material and the test- taker does not know what area the tests will cover. And the amount received is doubled to 20 shekels."

Every yeshiva where these tests are held agrees to cover 50 percent of the monthly costs. "This is not a large amount," says HaRav Tucker, "but today, unfortunately, participation has decreased considerably in the yeshivas. Circumstances really are difficult and it is felt out in the field."

Some projects were discontinued because of the economic situation. Today few people even dream of organizing the kind of gathering held in previous years with tests that carried prizes of up to $1,000.


Prizes do not begin and end with book purchases. The women (who take optional monthly tests) speak of other types of prizes. Rebbetzin Wurzburger refers to them as "yeshuos."

Some people's entire lives surround the issue of shemiras haloshon. Their brains don't stop racing: What else can be done? How can other sectors of the population be penetrated?

Rebbetzin Wurzburger toils away at this, working out of a tattered office in Jerusalem's Zichron Moshe neighborhood. A lot of ideas come out of this small space, and what is truly surprising is that their execution also comes from this little office, which has no computer and almost no equipment found in a normal office. However there is a fax machine in working condition (sometimes). Using this fax machine, Mishmeres Hasholom went into operation, special bulletins for children are created, plans are formed, drawings are organized, contacts are maintained. And stories of Hashgochoh protis also emerge from it.

"In Kiryat Gat 50 women maintain a shemiras haloshon watch," says Rebbetzin Wurzburger. "The objective is to bring merit to people in need of yeshu'oh, such as a shidduch. Thirty out of the fifty have already been delivered."

"About three years ago I read about an intense two-week period of shemiras haloshon for the sake of someone in need of siyata deShmaya," recounts Rebbetzin K. "I called up and asked how to do a `Two-week Shemiras Haloshon.' In the initial stage I organized a watch for a young man in need of a shidduch. All of the members of his family joined the watch, including his brothers in yeshiva. Later HaRav Fuchs said it was preferable to assemble all-women speech watches because it is harder for them to watch what they say. Within those very two weeks shidduch propositions started to arrive.

"When I saw how well it went, we did a speech watch for one of my relatives. All of the ladies in the family enlisted for this watch. At the end of those two weeks he got engaged. Since then I have continued organizing shemiras haloshon watches. I convince women I meet, even while waiting for the doctor, to join. In one watch there are Chassidim, Litvaks, Sephardim, bnei Torah and baalei teshuvoh. Six watches were set up in the little town of Kiryat Gat, where about 150 chareidi families live. Every woman fixes the most convenient hours for her. One woman who lives in moshav Komemiut and has no neighbors, chose the evening hours. Another one, who does not work, chose the morning hours. A third, with small children, keeps quiet in the afternoons."

More and more shemiras haloshon watches are proving to be a seguloh for various problems. But there are also other solutions besides watches. Those sold on the idea declare with firm conviction that whoever helps promote shemiras haloshon gains secondary benefits as well.

"Once I had to prepare more than one hundred envelopes for a mailing on the topic of shemiras haloshon," says Rebbetzin K. "I sought help and I asked a friend of mine, a woman who was married for more than five years and didn't have children, to prepare a few envelopes. `Put the name of the person the shemiras haloshon watch is being held for in every envelope,' I advised her. She did so, of course, and today she has a fabulous baby girl. A similar story involved another woman who was married for many years and didn't merit having children. She also lent a hand and conceived."

These amazing stories were backed by the late HaRav Yehuda Segal who said, "There is not a single family in the world in which two halochos a day are studied that hasn't seen a yeshu'oh, whether in shidduchim, recovery from illness, children -- it always helps."

Mishmeres Hasholom has many remarkable stories to tell. That people really have been delivered from their problems is fact. HaKodosh Boruch Hu helped them. All we have to go on is what our eyes can see and it is not ours to determine in exactly what merit the help so urgently needed came from Heaven. The people at Mishmeres Hasholom are sure that anyone who works toward shemiras haloshon gains.

"One of the women in our city had a child who was unable to walk at the age of two-and-a-half," recalls Rebbetzin K. "We did a two-week shemiras haloshon watch for her. At the end of the two weeks the girl started to walk.

"Recently I attended a simchah where I met a relative of mine holding a baby in her arms. I was very surprised since she had only older children. She reminded me that a two- week watch had been held for her and one year later the baby she was holding was born. As a rule women who hold a shiur on shemiras haloshon in their home witness miracles. One such woman gave birth after 21 years."

Rebbetzin K. has a whole bagful of stories to tell. Rebbetzin Wurzburger can also tell stories for hours on end. "Even those who help with transportation, bringing shemiras haloshon tapes and books, see yeshu'oh.

"Periodically we arrange to have speakers come to our town and their transportation can cost quite a lot. My friend donated money to us for a speaker and within one month her son and daughter got engaged. This happens again and again.

"Someone who learns two halochos a day, takes part in a watch and does a shiur in her home merits yeshu'oh. We call ours `the wandering shiur' because in the home of every family where the shiur was held the problem was solved and the shiur moved to another family."

Today Rebbetzin K. no longer lives in Kiryat Gat. "Before I moved to Bnei Brak, through amazing circumstances I found a replacement to continue the shemiras haloshon activities in the town. At the going-away party held for me my friend said she would donate the merit of the next day's two halochos." For Rebbetzin K. this was the greatest gift she could receive.

"I am willing to come and speak to groups, classes at schools or whoever wants about shemiras haloshon watches and other activities," she offers, along with her phone number (03-5796191). It's a wonderful zechus to disseminate the matter of shemiras haloshon."

Judging Favorably

Shemiras haloshon helps one branch out and grow in many directions, says Rebbetzin Wurzburger.

"Judging others favorably is the key to shemiras haloshon," she says. "When a person works on himself and learns to see others in a positive light he will judge them favorably rather than rushing to pass judgment and speak loshon hora about them."

She tells the following true story to illustrate her point. A young lady came to Eretz Yisroel to study in a seminar. On Shabbos she was a regular guest at a friend's home. One Shabbos she arrived at the family's home wearing a very nice, unique sweater. Her friend took one look at her and was shocked. Although the words, "How did my sweater make its way to you?" were on the tip of her tongue she managed to keep quiet.

But when she scrutinized it discreetly she became more convinced: it was definitely her sweater. She could even recognize all the little patterns on it. "She must have taken my sweater," she thought briefly, but quickly drove the thought out of her mind. It seemed very unlikely her young friend would steal and even less likely she would wear the item in view of the person from who it had been stolen.

That week the hostess dropped in at the dry cleaner's. The moment she stepped in she recalled that she had dropped off the sweater there and had forgotten to pick it up. What reminded her? A large sign posted at the entrance to the dry- cleaning store: "To our valued customers: Clothes left unclaimed for three months will be given to a gemach."

Suddenly everything was clear. The girl from abroad must have gotten the sweater at the gemach! Her friend would never have imagined such a set of circumstances, but that just goes to show one can always judge others favorably, and there is almost always a good reason to do so.

To Spread the Message Around the World

Without slackening its efforts in Eretz Yisroel, as described in this article, Notzrei Loshon is also trying to strengthen the observance of shemiras haloshon in chutz la'aretz as well.

One of the most important current projects is a new edition of the laws of loshon hora in which all the pages are laminated and suitable for studying separately. You can take along only a page at a time. Whoever wants to dedicate a page in the laminated edition (for only $50) can contact the following numbers:

For English and Yiddish speakers: 972-2-538-4702

In USA, 732-886-6111

England: 208-209-1340

List of Contacts

Shemiras Haloshon General Information Center (Hebrew): 02-571- 3879

Chavrusas: 02-582-1180

For English and Yiddish speakers: 02-538-4702

In USA, 732-886-6111

England: 208-209-1340

Tests: 02-581-8823

Tests for girls: 03-678-3373

Mishmeres Hasholom: 02-537-9160

Agudas Notzrei Loshon: 02-586-5653


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.