Gossip Is Worse Than
Profaning the Sabbath
TOLD BY SERL ROCHFELD-HAIMOV ITS
TO HER HUSBAND ZVI MOSHE HAIMOVITS
Once there were two women, a mother and daughter. They were both widows and desperately poor and lived in a ramshackle hovel at the edge of town, near the forest. They eked out their living by weaving tallitot.* To earn their meager crusts, they had to work sixteen hours a day, day in and day out.
The local rabbi, who was very fond of his Sabbath nap, used to walk as far as the nearby forest. One Sabbath afternoon, as he passed the hovel in which the two widows lived, he noticed that it shone with an intense and supernatural light. This, thought the rabbi, must be a place of Torah, where some hidden righteous man or lamed-vovnik** lives. The rabbi detoured toward the hut and was about to enter and discuss Torah with its resident. But he was astounded to see through the open window two Jewish women working at their looms. "What is going on here?" cried the rabbi. "Isn't today the Sabbath?"
Ashamed and remorseful, the two looked at the rabbi and did not know what to answer him. When the rabbi noted their confusion, he lowered his voice and asked why they were working on the Sabbath. The mother and daughter replied that it was because they worked sixteen hours a day and never went out, even to visit the neighbor across the way. "Rabbi," said the mother, "even working this hard we scarcely have anything to eat."
"You can see with your own eyes that all your exhausting labor does not bring you wealth."
"You have spoken truly, Rabbi," they replied. "But this keeps us from gossiping."
**One of the thirty-six hidden righteous men. For a discussion of their position in Jewish thought and
folklore, see the notes to tale IFA 10085 (vol. 1, no. 48).