What is up with "yeneh machalah"?

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    It’s interesting that the word bothers black people (but if it does, I would never use it.) It comes from Negro, which literally comes from the root word which means “black,” and in the South, where the black slaves were working the plantations, the Southerners’ pronunciation of “Negro” came out to be what we euphemistacally call “the N word.” It came into pejorative and exploitive use, I guess, but it is a benign word in and of itself. Nevertheless, we learn even in the Torah that we should not use nicknames for people (especially when they may cause pain to that person). Why they think “black” is any better, I do not know.


    Oomis, you want to change “yell” for “judge” — fine. But again there is a clear boundary as to where it applies. When you say:”he is not judgemental”, that goes with the Christian understanding of it.

    If someone goes and commits a brutal murder or rape, you would also not judge him?


    oomis: That’s pretty much the case with 99% of harmful words (I think I touched on this in a different thread with LAB)- they may, in themselves, have no intrinsically insulting or harmful meaning, but the meaning given to them by the majority becomes pervasive and sticks. After all, it’s the majority of consumers who define what you say, not the writer. Which I think is one of the coolest things about language, but that’s not the point.

    Think about curse words- actually, don’t think about curse words, but if you WERE to, half of them are just things from the Bible that we mention whenever we want in Hebrew because to us, what’s the problem? When something like that becomes a curse word in another context, the original meaning may as well just curl up and die, because it’s irrelevant. Context is king.

    It’s like the whole thing “sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me”- um, words themselves are just combinations of letters, but if you know the context, the meanings behind them and how they were meant to be understood in the current setting, they can be painful. There are plenty of pejoratives for Jews- half of them don’t mean anything that offensive when you just pick apart the etymology. Would you get insulted if someone called you by one of them? At the last vote, that is an insult, so unless you want to reframe the word in the minds of every English speaker, that’s what it is right now.

    And that’s why, IMO, using “yeneh machalah” is harmful. It’s not just a way of getting around saying the C word- it’s a new word, by common consensus, that sounds really creepy and threatening, a word that just inflates the thing it was meant to obscure until it’s now twice as terrifying.

    ubiquitin: You obviously don’t know the boy at my relative’s dialysis center who has been on dialysis since he was three and will be for the rest of his life. The point, though, is that while obviously a global look at the situation is helpful, as it helps establish needed organizations like RCCS, on a case by case basis, which is what, quite honestly, scares me, there are plenty of diseases as harmful. I AM NOT DIMINISHING THE SUFFERING OF PEOPLE WITH CANCER. Cancer does NOT need to be the biggest, worst thing (I’m sure cancer sufferers agree with me) and there are other terrible diseases as well.

    Which is a moot point, as why would ANY disease NEED a euphemism?


    Writer soulit doesnt need one. The question was whetehr it was warrented or if cancer just another disease like pneumoina or depression.

    To that end I pointed out that cancer (actusally a collection of different diseases) is worse than other diseases for two reasons discussed earlier. ESRD is not among the leading causes of death in children while the boy you know is obviously a very sad case it has no relevance to the two points i mentioned earlier


    ubiquitin: Of course cancer is devastating- but I think we’re both right. You’re looking at it in the aggregate, where cancer- the group of illnesses- is everything you say it is. I’m looking at it from the point of view of someone who has cancer or someone who has kidney disease. You can’t necessarily say, sight unseen, which one is suffering more.

    And because this subject is weirding me out (which horrible, devastating disease is worse?), I think that I’ll cut this short. If you have anything else to say, feel free to have the last word.


    Im glad we can agree. I’d end with the following:

    This isnt about which is worse, neither to society and certainly not to the indiviudal (even sight seen I’d feel uncomfortbale saying who was suffering more). The discussion is about which is more terrifying and to that end I’d say cancer is both because it’s prevelance (proably incidence is what is really terrifying) as well as how it affects all age groups. This is part of why the mere mention of the disease sends fear into anybody’s heart probably more so than other diseases and why some in our community wont even mention it.


    Oomis, you want to change “yell” for “judge” — fine. But again there is a clear boundary as to where it applies. When you say:”he is not judgemental”, that goes with the Christian understanding of it. If someone goes and commits a brutal murder or rape, you would also not judge him? “

    I am not the one who wants to change “yell” for judge. YOU want to change the word for “judge” to mean YELL. Yell is “L’tzok,” Judge is “ladoon.” If you know Hebrew, you know those words, and they sound nothing alike. Din, is the word for judgment,and we are not supposed to judge someone harshly without cause. OBVIOUSLY if someone is caught stealing, killing, raping, chas v’sholom, we have courts set up to JUDGE the person for his misdeeds, and they should first be judged, and THEN “yelled” at (punished). Those judgments are completely different, because they are judgments against a paradigm of good behavior that Hashem has already Given us in the Torah.

    Judging someone harshly because they are wearing the “wrong” type of kippah, clothing, or eating food with a hechsher you do not accept, is the wrong type of judging. When we as Jews say not to be judgmental, we mean not to make a negative decision about someone else without a) having all the facts and b) facing similar circumstances ourselves, ebcause we never know how we will react in a situation until we face it. And that most assuredly IS A JEWISH CONCEPT that the non-Jews stole from us, and carried further (to a wrong conclusion) by saying one should turn the other cheek. Now THAT is not a Jewish concept. I am surprised at your insistence.


    Oomis, I am surprised at your insistence. I agree with what you wrote in substance. That is called “judging favorably(le’kaf zechus)”. Using the term “not judgmental” though invokes the Christian concept of not judging anyone for anything.


    I was just scouting the internet and I found this blog by Tzipi Caton. Here is an excerpt of something she put up that illustrates my point about what people with cancer feel like when people avoid the word cancer. Tzipi had cancer as a teen, here is a brief sketch she wrote:

    JACP: “Hey, I was given your number by _______, and was told you were the one to talk to regarding a teaching job for the coming September?”

    HER: “Have you been to seminary?”

    JACP: “Uh, no.”

    HER: “Well we only take girls who have been to seminary.”

    JACP: “But I got married right out of school so I didn’t have the chance to even go to sem!”

    HER: “What school did you graduate from?”

    JACP: “______”

    HER: “Oh, so did you have my friend _______ in 12th grade?”

    JACP: “I didn’t actually go to 12th grade. I graduated school at 16.”

    HER: “What? Why?”

    JACP: “Because I was sick and I completed the whole high school curriculum while I was out being treated.”

    HER: “What were you sick with?”

    JACP: “Hodgkin’s.”

    HER: “What’s that?”

    JACP: “A type of cancer.”

    HER: “Don’t say that word!! Poo poo poo!”

    JACP: “Excuse me?”

    HER: “That word is an ayin hara! Don’t say it out loud!”

    JACP: “I’m sorry; that word is a part of my life. I feel that by calling it Poo poo poo or spitting on the floor, you are putting down what I went through.”

    HER: “That word causes terrible things.”

    JACP: “In my opinion fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.”

    HER: “That’s YOUR opinion. The Rabbanim have said not to say that word.”

    JACP: “I’d like to have a talk with those rabbanim.”

    HER: “How old are you anyway?”

    JACP: “Just seventeen”

    HER: “And you expect me to give you a teaching job? What grades do you think a 17 year old can teach?”

    JACP: “I’d like to teach any grade from 5th through 8th.”

    HER: “It’s not going to happen. What makes you think you’re qualified?”

    JACP: “I have life experience. I’m married. I’m young and can identify with them. I graduated with top marks…What else do I need?”

    HER: “Wait a minute. You were sick.”

    JACP: “So I said.”

    HER: “But you’re married!”

    JACP: “Uh yeah.”

    HER: “What’s wrong with your husband? Is he divorced? Was he also sick? Why did he marry you?”

    (It was a good thing this was a phone conversation. I would have strangled the woman in person.)

    JACP: “My husband married me because it was bashert. Hashem put us together and that’s the way it was meant to be.”

    HER: “But what’s wrong with him?”

    JACP: “What do you mean? Why does anything have to be wrong with him?”

    HER: “Because a normal boy with a good background and from a good home doesn’t just go and marry a girl who was sick with some life threatening disease.”

    JACP: “There’s nothing wrong with my husband. He had struggles in his life as I’ve had mine and that made us stronger and better people and when the time came for us to meet it didn’t matter what each of us had in our pasts, what mattered was where we were standing at that point in time, and as it happened, Hashem planned for us to be at the same place in life at the same time. What more can you possibly expect?”

    HER: “But I would never let my son marry a girl who was sick!”

    JACP: “But would you have a guarantee that your daughter in law won’t ever get sick after her wedding? What? Do you think I was born with a stamp on my head that said ‘I am going to have cancer–“

    HER: “POO POO POO!!!!”

    JACP: “-at age 16′? You think people know these things in advance?”

    HER: “But still…”

    JACP: “As a matter of fact, I am actually healthier than your son. I go to the doctor every few months and get scanned and have thorough checkups that your son will probably never get in his life. Every six months I get a clean bill of health. Can you son even say that he goes to the doctor every six months? Does he even know what’s going on in his own body?”

    HER: “So you can’t control what happens later, but if I had the choice of having him marry a clean girl or a sick girl, I would never pick you!”

    JACP: “That’s just fine Mrs. ___________. Your son wouldn’t be good enough for me anyway. See, I went through so much already that my neshama is cleaner, a little more elevated. My husband and I see the world a lot differently than most people do, and we are more than happy to be this way. Your son would never see eye to eye with me and I would never want to have to stoop to his level to see life the way he does. I’m so over that. I would never marry your son anyway”

    (Besides for which, I’d never want her as a mom in law!)


    WOW!That was really something to read!

    ☕ DaasYochid ☕

    Are there really people so rude?


    I, too, have a problem with “yenne maachleh”. Hey, cardiovascular disease kills more people than cancer. Why don’t we call it “yenne maachleh”?

    Ah, MDD, MDD. What are we going to do with you? It is certainly possible to be mekayim hating resayim and still avoid judging. Let’s see if you can grasp this concept. All of us, me included, hate reshayim conceptually, but to say that particular person is a rasha? that’s pushing it. The idea of a virtually impossible mitzvah is not so strange. We have a mitzvah to deal with a ben sorer u’moreh. The maskana is that there never was one (although there is a das yachid that there was one). We see that that mitzvah is virtually impossible to be mekayaim, the purpose of which is pedagogical, it isn’t a far stretch to say that hating reshayim without judging any particular individual a rashah serve a similar pedagogical function in teach us to hat rishus.

    Now, y’all will probably disagree with the above. That’s okay. When you and I appear before the Beis Din shel Ma’alah, as we both certainly will, I guess we’el find out if I’m right.

    a mamin

    Art of Moi: That is a HORRIBLE conversation. To say that person was closed minded is a mild statement!

    I do not find anything wrong with the wording of Yenna Machaleh instead of cancer and I have had very close people to me fighting the disease. The wording is not meant to demean anyone suffering at all! Its meant to protect the sick.I once heard a speech from a medical referral person. He was asked to speak at asifa on chinuch. So he asked them , why do you want me here? I know nothing about chinuch. I deal with medical referrals. So they asked him tell us what your office is like? He answered years ago we all knew if someone was diagnosed with ” yenna machaleh”. It was the neighbor who lived around the corner on the top floor.There were isolated cases. Today he gets in hundreds of new cases a month, RACHMONEI LITZLAN!He said years ago no one dared use the word “cancer”. Today you can have many minyonim is Sloan Kettering, RACHMONEI LITZLAN.

    No one here is trying to be judgmental, chas veshalom. There’s a sensitivity, which unfortunately hardly exists today!

    Wishing all cholei Yisroel, a complete REFUAH SHELEIMA!


    Saying yene machla is to avoid an ayin hora. If someone chas vshalom had HIV, would they be cavalier and open about sharing that info? Very doubtful. Theyd find some other euphemism in describing having some form of illness.

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    While there may be people who think that way, I don’t believe that conversation ever happened.


    This Tzippy Caton is real and amazing and someone to look up to and learn from. This conversation she had is real. Read her book and you will learn who she is and what she is about. Many people being challenged with the disease choose not to speak about it and B”H go on with their lives just as they would if they had a bad cold, strep or minor surgery. Attitude is very important and not telling people is a personal choice. Today the cure rate is B”H very high. Illnesses such as pnemonia and polio were looked upon just the same till a cure was sent by Hashem. Al Tadin Es Chaveiro Ad Shetagi L’Mkomo!!!

    ☕ DaasYochid ☕

    Syag, I’m also skeptical.

    🐵 ⌨ Gamanit

    Syag Lchochma and DaasYochid- she writes for Mishpacha Junior currently, so you’d probably be able to contact her through them and find out exactly what the true story was.


    Is everyone here serious? WE DON’T SAY CANCER BECAUSE IT’S THE SAME NAME AS A HOROSCOPE SIGN and we don’t ‘do’ horoscopes. THAT’S IT!

    Be well…


    Rav Ezriel Auerbach (in the Yated a few weeks ago) said something similar to what Machshiv Torah wrote (sans caps lock). It therefore applies to cancer specifically & not other illnesses.

    I just wonder if the Ford Taurus should be called Yeneh Car.


    Chazal use names of constellations. We just can’t because it’s the Greek (Latin?) word instead of Hebrew? That’s silly. Especially because I’m guessing the Yated article was referring to the word “Sartan” anyway.

    And saying we don’t do horoscopes is silly. Mazalos play a key role in a lot of Jewish tradition, even if they have fallen out of disuse. Chazal thought they were important.

    Besides which, like I said, cancer is just the Greek word for “crab”. Or should we start calling them “yenne crustaceans”?

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