Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

The other day I was at a wedding. Since I am going through fertility treatment, I gained some weight. We are married for three years and we both want children, but we have not yet been blessed with any. So, I walked into the wedding and everyone was looking at my stomach. Someone actually came over to me smiling and said, “I see that you put on some weight, so when is the baby due?” I cringed and thought I would fall through the floor. I muttered under my breath that I was not pregnant, and I left the person standing there. Then I ran to the bathroom and could not stop crying. Dr. Respler, this happens all the time. Every place I go, everyone is looking at my stomach. I am by nature very thin, so people think that if I gain some weight, I am pregnant. Why are people so insensitive?


I was crying to a friend of mine who unfortunately lost a brother in a car accident. He was a good driver, but he was hit suddenly by a truck. Someone actually came to the shiva and said to his mother, “You know, he should not have been driving at such a young age.” He was already in his 20s and drove for several years without ever having an accident. She shared with me many incidents of when people were very insensitive at the shiva.

Why don’t people think before they speak? It is so painful.

Maybe you can publish this letter and ask people to be more sensitive before they say painful things to others.




Dear Anonymous,

I feel for your pain and the pain of your friend and her mother during their shiva period and after. What you are experiencing is “Onas Devorim” by people who are likely thoughtless when they speak. I am so sorry that you are suffering two-fold, once from yearning for children and once from other people’s thoughtless and painful words.

Unfortunately, you are not alone. I work with many people who tell me painful things that people say to them. Often, these people are simply not thinking before they speak (most people don’t mean to hurt others). I hope my readers read your letter and take it as a wake-up call to think carefully before they speak. I know most people are not meaning to hurt others, but they need to learn to think before they speak.

In relation to your friend who sat shiva for her brother, I work with people after they get up from shiva and I have done columns on this situation. People should just sit and listen to the person who is sitting shiva, making no comments other than to tell positive stories about the person who was niftar. Halachically one should try never to speak first and just to sit and listen as carefully as possible.

Discussions about unrelated matters like household help or other issues are inappropriate. People sometimes go to shiva houses and start socializing, which is also inappropriate.

This issue was addressed eloquently in Positive Word Power, a book by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. [Day 80-pg172] “One day a man noticed a 13-year-old boy standing outside the shul smoking a cigarette. The man felt that he could not observe this behavior without doing something to discourage it. “Does your father smoke?” he asked him pointedly.

“No he doesn’t.” A moment later there was an announcement that Mincha was about to begin. The man followed the boy inside and was astounded and ashamed that the boy was approaching the bimah to lead the services. It was the boy’s obligation to do so, for he recently lost his father. The man could not have known unless he inquired about the boy before speaking to him. If one knows a person well, he must think about a person’s sensitivities before he makes a personal comment to him. Does this man have children? Granchildren? A livelihood? If you do not know someone, you must be very careful to not make any comments that are personal or can be hurtful.

Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention. We all must be careful to always ask ourselves, “Is this an appropriate topic for this person? Do I know him or her well enough to ask this question?” May Hashem grant you healthy children b’karov (soon) and may your quest to never hurt others be a zechus for you and your future children.

Please dear readers, try to be sensitive to others and to think before speaking. Hatzlocha!


Previous articleThe ‘Impossible Challenge’
Next articleThe Rebbe’s Mission – And Ours
Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at