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Feathers, By Chaim Heller, Head of School

Chaim final constant contactThe author Joseph Telushkin tells the following story from a collection of Jewish folktales: “In a small Eastern European town, a man went through the community slandering the rabbi and the town he lived in. The people were all crooks he said, and the rabbi was the most crooked of all. One day, months later, feeling suddenly remorseful, he went to the rabbi and begged for forgiveness and offered any penance to make amends. The rabbi told him to take a feather pillow from his home, cut it open, scatter the feathers to the wind, then return to see him. The man did as he was told then came to the rabbi and asked “Am I forgiven?”

“Almost,” came the response. “You just have to do one more thing. Go and gather the feathers.”

“But that’s impossible,” the man protested. “The wind has already scattered them.”

“Precisely,” the rabbi answered. “And although you truly wish to correct what you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers.”

This oft-repeated story teaches a universal lesson about the power of careless speech and the importance of watching our words. The story is found in “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal” by Joseph Telushkin and was used recently in our work with students who needed reminding about the importance of not speaking ill of others in the class. It’s a book that is well worth reading and rereading as we try to raise our children to be kind and ethical people.


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