pirke imahot .01

I am not the first to use the phrase, but begin­ning on March 15, 2000 I began a file in which I col­lect­ed our moth­er’s say­ings. I will peri­od­i­cal­ly share them here. One of her pri­ma­ry expres­sions was:

if you can’t say anything nice about someone,
don’t say it

It’s that sim­ple.

Our moth­er was not a learned per­son. Though she grad­u­at­ed near the top of her class at John Hay High School in Cleve­land, Ohio, in 1930, she went imme­di­ate­ly to work to help put her broth­er William through col­lege.

faye avrunin high school graduation

Faye Avrunin, high school grad­u­a­tion, 1930

Nonethe­less, she was good and she was wise.

Mom would have a hard time find­ing things to com­plain about. In fact, the last few years of her life, when she lived at Seacrest Vil­lage, an inde­pen­dent liv­ing cen­ter near our home in Poway, her biggest com­plaint was about those peo­ple who always found things to com­plain about.

And, of course, if you are not to say any­thing not nice about some­one, you cer­tain­ly should not write it down, nor broad­cast it on the radio, nor post it on the Web.

These thoughts came to mind as I learned that Dr. Lau­ra Sch­lessinger had gone on a rant on her radio show on August 1, 2010. Sch­lessinger was nev­er one of our moth­er’s pre­ferred radio talk show hosts, far from it. Mom dis­liked Shlessinger’s pol­i­tics, her per­spec­tive on social issues and her man­ner of inter­act­ing with her lis­ten­ers. Nonethe­less, Mom would have been just as upset, and dis­ap­prov­ing, to see any­one depict­ed as Sch­lessinger is in this lapel but­ton dis­trib­uted at the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Los Ange­les in August of 2000. Mom had a hard time imag­in­ing any­one being evil. But, even if one was evil… if you can’t say some­thing nice, don’t depict it. There are bet­ter ways to express your dis­ap­proval.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Dr. Lau­ra Sch­lessinger, fanged

Date: August 2000
Size: 8.7
Pin Form: safe­ty
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text WASZUP.COM/DIGITALART.POLITICS
Copy­right, 2000

Waszup.com no longer exists as a Web address.

who is it that desires life?

Mom’s wis­dom was not orig­i­nal to her. I would prob­a­bly have saved shar­ing the fol­low­ing but­ton for Sep­tem­ber 3, the 24th of Elul… the Yahrtzeit of the Chofetz Chaim, except for the time­li­ness of Dr. Lau­ra Sch­lessinger’s remarks. I may be stretch­ing the mean­ing of the phrase a bit (though a col­league shared a sim­i­lar asso­ci­a­tion), but it is inter­est­ing to see some­one brought down because they seem­ing­ly did not know how not to tell Loshon Hora (that’s Yid­dish, accent on the first syl­la­ble of each word; Lashon Hara in Hebrew, accent on the last syl­la­ble of each word).

engaging with others

I am intrigued by the the atti­tude expressed by this but­ton. It pre­sumes that the wear­er is already not going to spread gos­sip. The but­ton is a warn­ing to oth­ers not to engage the wear­er in this neg­a­tive activ­i­ty. As such there seems to be a bit of a “holi­er than thou” atti­tude expressed in it that is inap­pro­pri­ate:

I’m cer­tain­ly not going to spread gos­sip, but I’m not sure about you, so be care­ful what you tell me.

Nonethe­less, as we con­tin­ue our approach to Rosh haShan­nah, it is good to keep in mind how easy it is to err in this way. לשׁון הרע is one of those errors that is explic­it­ly men­tioned in the al chet.

This but­ton was pro­duced by the Hoftez Chaim Her­itage Foun­da­tion and dis­trib­uted at the URJ bien­ni­al in 2001. If it was dis­trib­uted by the Foun­da­tion, it is inter­est­ing that the Ortho­dox orga­ni­za­tion decid­ed to spread its mes­sage at the Reform con­ven­tion.

don't even think of telling me loshon hora

don’t even think of telling me loshon hora

Date: 2001
Size: 7.7
Pin Form: safe­ty
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text CHOFETZ CHAIM

DON’T
even
THINK
of telling
me
LOSHON
HORA

HERITAGE FOUNDATION

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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