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    Feif Un

    Someone emailed me a page from the newsletter sent out in Bnos Yaakov, in Lakewood. It said the following:

    A man was traveling in a horse and wagon together with a group of other people. As they were traveling through a field, they suddenly heard a terrible, heartrending scream. “Yidden, yidden, please come and have rachmanus… Help me!!” The men followed the screams to a small house standing in the field. They hurriedly jumped off their wagon, thinking that some robbers must have befallen that house, and they wanted to help. However, when they entered the little house, a most frightening scene met their eyes. They saw an old woman, with a younger lady laying on a bench. On the ground burned a huge fire, and on the fire stood a large pot filled with clothing. The clothing, which were boiling up in the pot, emitted clouds of smoke rising up to the ceiling. The old woman silently reached into the pot, took out a boiling article of clothing, and put it onto the young woman, instantly burning her body. The young woman was screaming terribly in pain, but the older woman continued putting more and more burning clothing onto her. The men realized that what they were witnessing was not from this world, but rather these were neshamos from the next world receiving their punishment. They were so shaken up and frightened, that they dropped the money they had with them on the ground and fled one by one outside. When the old woman saw that they were leaving, she ran out after them and once again began screaming, “Yidden, yidden, have rachmanus… Help us!!” However, the men continued fleeing in great fear, forgetting about their horse and wagon, and ran all the way back to their hometown, where they fell to the ground and lay there weak and faint for a few weeks. Afterwards, they remembered that there had never been a house standing in that field…

    It seems like what they saw was a mother and her daughter, and the mother had not raised her daughter to be tzniusdig. This was the punishment they were given, that the mother herself had to burn her own daughter… this is the onesh of women who burn the neshamos of their children in this world when they “have rachmanos on them” and don’t lead them in the ways of tznius… in the next world, they will turn into achzarim and will have to punish their children with their own hands…

    I was shocked by this letter. Do they realize how much harm this will cause? How many young girls will have nightmares because of it? When will they realize that scaring people into following Judaism doesn’t work? It only causes people to go off the derech!

    I think this letter is terrible, and the school should be ashamed to have put out drivel like that.

    Feif Un

    The head of Camp Sdei Chemed wrote another story in response to this letter – a story that shows the proper way to educate young girls, and make them WANT to keep mitzvos because they choose to, not because they’re scared:

    This girl was one of the sweetest and well-behaved girls you can find and so of course all we could think about throughout the summer was why would she not have wanted to dress according to proper modesty guidelines. Something just didn’t seem right.

    The riddle was explained on the last night of camp, when during the banquet the girls open their hearts and tell us the private journeys of their lives. This is understandably an emotional time, but her story left everyone teary eyed. It goes back to the time just after her bas mitzvah. During a summer break she got into a major accident where she almost lost her life. Happy to be alive, in the hospital she was told she might not have use of her legs anymore. As she sat in the hospital bed and visitors came by, she promised Hashem that she would do whatever He wants if he would give her the use of her legs again. That she would use them only for doing good things and nothing else. At this point you could just imagine how strange it was to us that it was this very girl who was unwilling to dress modestly. That’s because of what happened next.

    She took back the promise that night and said she will once again put a long skirt on because she believed she has grown up and moved on. She said that this decision was the hardest one to make, but the new counselors and rabbis she met during the summer in Sdei Chemed showed her that there is another kind of Judaism that exists. One of love and kindness.


    I saw somewhere a guy claiming this is a fake, and did not happen. I don’t usually repeat unsubstantiated rumors, but I do repeat good iunsubstantiated rumors which are negating bad unsubstantiated rumord.


    I think it is a good moshol. As far as nightmares go, I know that there is much worse stuff that kids in other communities are shown that is way worse. Think of what movies parents bring their children to and what goes on there, both violence and tznius (loshon nekiah)or unfettered and unfiltered internet access. Much much worse as far as nightmares go. And those have no redeeming features at all.

    The little I know

    This is a frightening trend in our chinuch system, though the fundamental flaw exists in every one of us.

    I suspect that there has probably never been a generation that had as many built in chumros in shmiras hamitzvos. We can provide Cholov Yisroel almost anywhere on earth. We have kosher lamps and phones. We can minimize chilul Shabbos in hospitals with gramah based apparatus. We have increased our range of chesed to virtually hundreds of gemachs for countless things. We have rules in place that our talmidim come to yeshivos with white shirts only. Our girls have uniforms that guarantee tznius standards. We even have rules in yeshivos and girls’ schools that expel talmidim and talmidos if there is a compromise in tznius in the home (or deny them admissions), even the men from non-chassidishe circles have peyos and beards, and there is probably more Torah being learned today than ever in history. We are seriously deficient in one thing (maybe more, but I focus on this one). Ahavas Hashem. We are too preoccupied to dedicate our concern and concentration to become closer to Hashem and to fulfill His will.

    I quote a story mentioned by Rav Dessler ZT”L in the Michtav Me’Eliyahu. A mashgiach once asked a talmid who davened a lengthy tefillo with hislahavus, “Tell me, at which point during davening do you concentrate on standing before Hakadosh Baruch Hu?” The talmid answered that he is much too busy with his thoughts of the meanings of the words and the awareness of halachos about where he can be mafsik that he does not have capacity to entertain thoughts of standing before the Shechinah. Rav Dessler decries the foolishness of this logic. But have some of us gotten there?

    We hear much about students in yeshivos “complying with rules”. It would be chaotic otherwise. But have we “ruled” our yeshivos away from true learning? Have we stripped our talmidim away from “Ratzon Hashem” for the gain of “Ratzon Hayeshiva”?

    When we need to resort to these “fire and brimstone” stories, we have banished the entire mission of bringing Ahavas Hashem to our younger generation. Is it a wonder that we struggle with way too many children who observe the consistent hypocrisy and seek fulfillment in the gashmiyus worlds of entertainment, street life, and chemicals? These children are not drop outs. They are throw outs. We pushed then there by hiding Ahavas Hashem from ourselves and from them.

    I am not offended by this story, and I have no reason to question its validity. And there are many such recountings of events that can and should throw some pachad into our souls. What is questioned is the messages we give to our children. Good question. Is anyone on the chinuch end listening? What kind of answers are there?


    This is a complete fabrication and outright lie. The school NEVER sent such a letter to anyone.


    Feif this is so awful! i cant tell you how disgusting this is to me that young girls will be thinking of the fire and brimstone of gehenom this is beyond the pale just unbelievable.


    TO Fief un

    you are so right. it is terrible to teach people that avaros will be punished! They should think that whatever they do is fine and their personal choice!

    This is an old story and the specifics may or may not be true.

    what is true is one of the ani maamins.

    There is schar v’onesh.

    Aimas hadin and yiras chate are among the most important things to teach and learn.


    i dont think they mean to scare, but it does have mixed feelings,on one hand they try to do it nicely but think honestly do u really think that it makes such a great impact standing up and saying” keep tznuis its important, if u dont u will be punished” or tell them somethinga little scary to show proof? i am still deciding but read this and tell me what u think!! :

    My Dear Sisters,

    I am writing to you in my last moments, with the last threads of my strength. I am writing to you with blood and tears, from the bottom of my broken and tormented heart.

    Yes, I, Revital A., 19 years old, am standing on the threshold of death, so young, but already feeling all the gates of life shutting slowly before me. I am like a beautiful flower closing its petals.

    Like all of you, I had my dreams about love, husband, children and social position.

    But Hashem has decided otherwise, and I know today that if I had lived differently, nothing would have happened.

    I was born in a religious family from the center of Israel. From the day I can remember, I knew I was a beautiful child. From kindergarten, I attracted everybody’s attention, and I knew I had been blessed with a rare beauty, and I am not exaggerating. Even though people were talking my exceptional beauty, my dear and wise parents tried to minimize the effect of such a gift on me, and made all possible efforts to put the whole family on daily routine. But I was a bright child, and I cherished more and more my beauty.

    My friends encouragements made me understand that beauty can buy anything in this world – friendship, position and honor. I learned to exploit it for my goals, I wore clothes which draw attention, my very long hair caused astonishment and envy, and every detail in my appearance was thoroughly taken care of. I enjoyed the long looks of people everywhere I went – to my deep regret.

    My teachers in high school tried to change my mind, but it was already too late – I was attracted to a magic circle called “to please and be outstanding”.

    I can remember one of my teachers’ words: “Revital, you have received a rare present, a special beauty – This is your trial in life, keep it carefully for the right person to come in your life”. I was pretending to be convinced, but these words were just passing by my ears. I was addicted to my looks and did everything to bring people to admiration. I know today that I have caused hundreds or even thousands of people to fail because of my clothing. I was really enjoying it!

    And then I received a first warning sign. One evening, while preparing an omelet in the kitchen, and made a brisk turn and my beautiful long hair got caught in the fire and became in seconds a red and fearful flame. I was saved, but my hair had gone. I remember my hysterical crying in the hospital, and my father trying to console me: “Revital, Hashem has made a miracle. You could have been entirely burnt! You have now an opportunity to change and leave your foolish attitude behind you”.

    But I didn’t listen. I was 16 years old then, and within two years my hair grew back to what it was, and everything was forgotten.

    I was the queen of my class. My friends loved me, anything I wanted was granted, and I never was alone. I grew more and more beautiful with the years, and at 16, I began to put on make-up and tight clothes. At this stage, I even got involved in some trouble. It is hard for me to write about it, but I think you can guess.

    I forgot to tell you about my grand-mother. She was a wonderful person, a real “Tzadekes” and I loved her very much. She was very sad and upset about my spiritual state of mind.

    She was giving me money to buy more decent clothes, but nothing helped! She died before I was 17. I cried a lot and didn’t know how to live without her, and for a brief period, I even became a little bit more religious. But time eased the pain, and within a few months I was back to my bad habits, boastful and immodest as ever.

    And then I received a second sign from above. One night I had a dream about my grand-mother. She was sitting on a stone and crying. I asked her why she was crying, and she pointed to her head without saying a word. I woke up very upset, but I forgot the whole thing very quickly, and this second sign melted away without any thought.

    And then, I received the big blow. It came gradually but consistently. At the beginning, there were headaches, and my mother said I was tired and studying too much, that I should rest more, but deep down I felt it was something more serious.

    After a month, I couldn’t even stand because of the headaches, and I thought my head was going to explode. My mother and I were worried and anxious on our way to the doctor, to get the answers to all the examinations and analyses I had been through, but the doctor’s face revealed the fearful truth. He said: “such a beautiful girl and so sick!” I burst into tears, asked for explanations. My mother and I were disoriented and helpless before this new and cruel reality: I had a cancerous tumor in my head.

    It was only a question of time. I don’t remember how we got home that day. I just remember tears, fear, confusion and pain.

    And suddenly I remembered the dream, my grand-mother crying and pointing to her head! If only I had understood at the time the meaning of that dream, my life would have different! But I didn’t give any importance to this dream and went on with my life. The next day, at the hospital, I began the treatment I never thought would be so painful. I felt death crawling slowly inside me, burning my bones, my blood, and my whole self.

    The rest of my story is sad and painful, and I don’t even have the strength to write it.

    My wonderful hair fell. Within a few months I was left completely bald, fearfully pale and weak. Every doctor I met was mentioning my rare beauty, and I, every time, felt my heart break a little bit more. Hashem had given me a precious gift, an outstanding beauty, and I had used it the wrong way, instead of keeping it intact and pure for a true cause. Oh Hashem!

    Do it for yourselves, do it for me!



    That is terrifying. If i read that letter when i was in high school it would have given me nightmares. What was the school thinking? To terrify young girls into being tznius so that it doesn’t even mean anything, they are doing it purely out of fear?


    Drivel?? I guess you were trying to be polite, feif un. Or maybe stronger language is not allowed here. At any rate, I agree. A lot of Bais Yakov schools have been using these ridiculous stories and methods for a long time, with sometimes disastrous, and at best, benign results. Stay close with your kids and try to set a good example. True, as we’re always told, we have to protect them from the demonic influences lurking in the streets, and on the internet; we also have to protect them from the “drivel” they are exposed to in our schools, where we, their loving parents, send them off to every day.


    There seem to be two topics under discussion.

    1) is this good chinuch.

    2) op says the story is drivel.

    as to the first I will cede that telling such things to some will drive them away. whether a BY or Yeshiva ought to take that into consideration I will leave to others to comment on.

    as to the second I have to say again that there is punishment in this world and the next for avairos. How dare you call it drivel?!

    This is one of the shlosh asar ikarim. As to the the specifics I am not in a position to know and neither is anyone else here.

    but the idea is basic.

    I remember a shmooz where the rav said, “be sure you are not including yourself in birchas haminim!”.


    as to the second I have to say again that there is punishment in this world and the next for avairos. How dare you call it drivel?!

    But how do you know that *that’s* the punishment? Or is making up horrific punishments okay since you know (a) there is a punishment and (b) it’s for a “good cause” anyway?

    If I say that the punishment for wearing sha’atnez is having a vulture eternally peck at your liver in the afternoon, is it drivel? Or am I covered by saying “well, since there *is* s’char v’onesh, I’m okay?

    The Wolf


    to wolf.

    I dont think you really read my post.

    I wrote that the specifics are beyond my capacity to know. and yours. how could op know it is drivel? the story may be false.

    but op and you and others seem to be saying that the idea of serious punishment is rediculous. yes, if you make up a story about what the onesh for a particular avaira will be, that is not okay.

    implying that any punishment will certainly not be as horrific as the one in the story is also wrong. very wrong.



    Burning after death is not a jewish idea, Nowhere does it say you will burn downstairs for being a sinner except in the other religions philosophy.

    I am sure this occured as I saw a copy of the letter,

    I dont know if this letter should have been sent or not, but I do think the parents should have been asked. A parent should know his daughter if she should read this or not and if its a positive or negative


    Though Judaism teaches the opposite, it is natural that men make over gods in their own image including all the dark sides. Just consider the source.


    The source of the story in the OP is mentioned in the sefer “Shomer Emunim” by the former Shomer Emunim Rebbe [The founder of the Toldas Aaron & Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Chassidus written at least fifty years ago. He was known as a tzaddik and oved Hashem. So the story is probaly true.


    This is horrifying.


    @the little i know:

    Amazing post! Very good points! i really enjoyed your post, i just read it twice then read it to my husband as well. 🙂 thanks!


    I think it’s appalling how people actually believe that preaching and threatening will do any good. Especially with the delicate and largely misunderstood topic of tznius. You have to be so careful with every single thing you say because teenagers especially are so ready to take what you say in the wrong way.

    This school needs some serious talking to, if it is true that they did indeed send this story out.


    Zahavasdad: That’s not so true. See the deleted Gemara in Sanhedrin as to what some of the punishments in Gehinnom are.

    The little I know

    There is another point I wish to add to my comment above. At every juncture in life, we are beset with the challenges of milchemes hayetzer. We always have within us the voice guiding us to follow the Will of Hashem and the corresponding Yetzer Horah that cajoles us to folow the negative direction. What I believe happens is that the admonishments that are intended to frighten us away from sinning actually energize the Yetzer Horah. If we handle the positive side well, then we strengthen it enough to overcome the Yetzer Horah. But that task becomes more difficult if we have just fueled the Yetzer Horah with the “fire and brimstone” messages, which is exactly what he wants to hear.

    This explanation is suggested numerous times in the seforim of R’ Klonymos Kalman of Piesceznye. This is why he states his position so many times about concentrating on the Yemin Mekareves, as opposed to the weaker Smohl Docheh.

    Ben Levi


    You quite obviously are completley unaware of most Hashkofa seforim ever heard of “why we say V’Hu Rachum with a special tune on Motzei Shabbos?

    Tosfos say because Reshoim burn the whole week long, on Shabbos they are taken out to “rest” we try to extend shabbos a drop to “extend” their time out of the fire’s of Gehenom.

    Ben Levi

    Most fairytales and bedtime stories that used to be told to children are very very scary.

    Dr. Bruno Bettelheim (one of the most famous child phsycologists of his day) actually has an entire book studying this phenomenon and points to their unquestionable effectiveness at giving over certain moral values.

    And those who say that teaching such stories are “ineffective”.

    Such stories used to be standard fare in teaching yes the positive was taught the “schar” but also the “oinesh” the punishment.

    Nowadays many feel only the positive should be taught not the consequences at all.

    Another thing nowadays is that we complain about childrens sense of entitlement, lack of reponsibility and lack of derech eretz and failure to “grow up” and machure.

    Seems to me the old way of chinuch did work.


    Of course the story quoted by the OP is not true. Who ever heard of Jews dropping money?


    Zichmich: I think it’s said that most stories in the Chassidish Seforim are there to tell a point, whether or not they actually happened. (A great quote I once heard was, “They may not have happened in this world, but they all occurred in the Olamos Ha’elyonim.)


    Since when have Jews followed Catholic teachings on hell damnation and burning in hell?!. And are teachers who allow this to be sent home even aware of the religious and cultural implications of this piece of rubbish.

    I know we lived in Mid and Eastern Europe and picked up some recipes and musical tunes, but Catholic teaching on reward and punishment!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know some Chassidish groups glorify their rabbonim to the point of beatification, but getdown to basics we are Jewish ! We must treat our Torah and rabbonim with proper JEWISH kavod and respect, not follow chukkat hagoyim.


    Let’s ask a few kashas oif a maaseh to try and understand its message.

    The fact that it was men who witnessed the scene and not women is meant to teach us what?

    The fact that it was an older woman and younger woman implies a mother and daughter, how?

    The fact that the woman was able to communicate with the men and ask them for help implies?

    The fact that the men ran away like cowards completely ignoring the women, implies?

    The fact that the clothes were cooking up in a pot, were not consumed (ala the sneh) as opposed to say, clothing that was filled with thorns and ripped apart the skin when put on, implies?

    The fact that the older woman repeatedly handled these burning articles of clothing and herself did not get hurt implies?


    @zichich – “The source of the story in the OP is mentioned in the sefer “Shomer Emunim” by the former Shomer Emunim Rebbe [The founder of the Toldas Aaron & Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Chassidus written at least fifty years ago. He was known as a tzaddik and oved Hashem. So the story is probaly true.”

    That’s right. I knew this story as well, couldn’t think of where I read it before, but indeed, it’s in the sefer Shomer Emunim.

    The little I know

    The problem is not the story. We have enough volumes of maasselach on our shelves, written in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English with thousands of stories. I do not question whether they are all true, because most could be even if they did not happen. And all have needed messages. What is being asked here, besides the kashes oif maases, is the appropriateness of this story to guide young girls about tznius. This is the chinuch aspect pointed out earlier, and the use of the fire and brimstone is something I find a threat to our ability to be mechanech our children.


    I agree the problem is not the story (I wrote what I did, tongue in cheek). Any yokel could make up a story or repeat a story they heard or read. The chochma is in how the story gives over the intended message. What exactly was the intended message here? Is it a message to mothers that they are hurting there own daughters? Is it a message to daughters to stand up to their mothers and say no I dont want you to hurt me? Is it a message to men to get involved with the way the females members of the family dress? Some combination? One can come up with many plausible messages, however, it seems the message people are taking away is, if dont dress tzniusdik you will rot in hell while undergoing some horrible punishment. Did anyone call the school to find out their intended message?

    ohr chodesh

    The mussar seforim are full of fire and brimstone. Fire and brimstone is a legitimate and effective and historical Jewish form of mussar.


    If I say that the punishment for wearing sha’atnez is having a vulture eternally peck at your liver in the afternoon

    That is already the punishment for giving out the secret of fire. Try another one.


    Ohr Chodesh: No one disagrees with that. The question is whether a school for young girls is the proper place for use of such a Derech of Mussar.


    It seems the letter was given to the lakewood scoop by an angry father.

    According to the JP the school is unwilling to speak to anyone about the letter and is angry the anonymous parent leaked the letter.

    If the letter was correct, they should defend it


    “The mussar seforim are full of fire and brimstone.”

    I cant say I’m an expert on “the mussar seforim”, but I dont recall rabbeinu yona, the ramchal or the orchos tzadikim being full of fire and brimstone. then again, “i dont recall” is not a proof to anything.

    Feif Un

    Ohr Chodesh: There was a story a few years ago about a mechanech who contacted R’ Shteinman about some former students who were threatening him over the way he had treated them. This was the response:

    We see that R’ Shteinman holds that the methods of chinuch needed have changed. Fire and brimstone is not the way to go!


    The problem with Fire and Brimstone is that it causes the student to contemplate what is beyond this world.

    The Gemara in Chagiga warns against doing so.

    4 great Torah Scholars in the time of the Mishnah did enter “beyond the curtain”.

    One committed suicide, one went crazy, one became a heretic and one emerged unscathed (Rabbi Akiba).

    25% success and 75% failure rates.

    Not every mussar sefer is appropriate for general audiences.

    There are plenty other ways to teach accountability and fear of sin without Fire and Brimstone.

    The sections of Rebuke in the Torah focus on consequences in this world.

    Dante was the biggest advocate of lecturing Fire and Brimstone to the masses.


    takahmamash: “Of course the story quoted by the OP is not true. Who ever heard of Jews dropping money?”

    Correct, In the source of this story [Sefer Shomer Emunim] it does’nt mention any dropping of money. It seems that the writer of the article added some details, but the rest of the story stands as it was quoted by a reliable person in his sefer.


    tahini: “Since when have Jews followed Catholic teachings on hell damnation and burning in hell?!. And are teachers who allow this to be sent home even aware of the religious and cultural implications of this piece of rubbish.”

    I don’t know which brand of judiasm you suscribe to, but [most] orthodox jews believe that Heaven & Hell [Gehenom] are REAL places. Whether this should have been taught in a school is up for debate.

    As mentioned in the “ANI MAMINS” that “Hashem rewards for mitzvos and punishes for those that violate his mitzvos.” Like nitpicker wrote above: “This is one of the shlosh asar ikarim. As to the the specifics I am not in a position to know and neither is anyone else here.

    but the idea is basic.”


    apushatayid: “Let’s ask a few kashas oif a maaseh to try and understand its message.

    The fact that it was an older woman and younger woman implies a mother and daughter, how?”

    “In the sefer Shomer Emunim, The Shomer Emunim Rebbe writes: “It seems that the young woman was a daughter of the older woman.”

    The exact source of the story in the OP is: Sefer Shomer Emunim. section “mevo hashar” perek [chapter] 16.


    I’m sure there are 100 ways to interpret this story. Even in ways that have nothing to do with tznius. Perhaps the young woman was hired help in the older womans home and she used to sabotage her clean laundry, and she is now getting her due punishment through the hands of the woman she tormented.


    The Shomer Emunim ztvk’l explained the meaning of the story.

    It has to do with tznius.


    Ok. I explained the story in a different way. Imy’h when I publish my sefer I will include my explanation and why I feel it is the appropriate one. Until then, learn from his sefer and learn what he teaches.


    apushatayid: “Ok. I explained the story in a different way. Imy’h when I publish my sefer I will include my explanation and why I feel it is the appropriate one. Until then, learn from his sefer and learn what he teaches. “

    Who are you, and what are your credentials that you even think you are on the same level as the Shomer Emunim????


    I didn’t realize I needed “credentials” to learn torah and offer an explanation. I suppose the fact that I am a yid is credential enough.

    For what it is worth, I don’t disagree with the message of the Rebbe, I disagree what the lesson of this story is. Of course if he created the story, for this specific message….that would be like the dubna maggids arrow and target.


    Uh, what is the difference between a “message” of a story and a “lesson” of a story? The Rebbe was specific what the lesson and message of this story is.


    Message, lesson. Same thing. At least the way I am using both words.


    U guys r nuts!! and that story about the cancer patient is bad fiction. anyhow under 20 you dont get punished from god.! stupidity

    who does this!!

    as i just heard a rav say in a shiur when he went off on a tangent about the terrible situation of chinuch today, “i’m sure that at night these very same woman go into their basement and put on their tights and dance to goyishe music” 🙂

    its the same people who scare these poor girls for life that make believe they are qualified to be kallah teachers and ruin peoples marriages!! who needs kallah teachers anyhow the woman who gets married follows the husbands minhagim not the kallah teacher so why confuse them?? ( that was a random rant but it just came out sorry)

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