In today's Parashat Hashavu'a Chat, I used the qualification "lehavdil" (*) to apply to a pun that jokingly and innocuously related the actions of Datan and Aviram to those of a community member here.

Alex responded to me that "They say that you don't say "lehavdil" between one Jew and another," but later indicated that he doesn't recall where he heard this.

  • Have you seen a source for this rule?

  • What is the reason for it?

  • Does it really mean that we shouldn't use the word to distinguish between a wicked Jewish person and a righteous one? If so, why?

(*) "Lehavdil," literally "to separate," indicates that while two entities may be juxtaposed in conversation, we don't intend to equate them in terms of religious value. For example:

Did ... great rabbinic thinkers of the 1800s ... comment on American slavery and/or the Civil War? (As Dostoevsky did, lehavdil?)

  • 3
    Have you seen a source that you do say l'havdil for anything in the first place? It seems like just a common phrase in the religious world, but not necessarily necessary as a "rule".
    – jake
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 23:11
  • @jake, no I have no source for saying it. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a cultural convention that I find apropos at times. If someone wise and/or authoritative has some advice about when not to deploy it, I'm interested to hear about it.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 2:02
  • 3
    I was just re-reading Abarbanel's Rosh Amanah this morning, and in the introduction, he uses the exact same line that came up in the chat, "שני אנשים עברים נצים", to describe R' Chasdai Crescas and R' Yosef Albo. Made me laugh. (He didn't say l'havdil, by the way.)
    – jake
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 17:18
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/73790/8775.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 23:58
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/81530/5323
    – MTL
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 4:27

1 Answer 1


It is mentioned in Kovetz Sipurim on the Lubavitcher Rebbe

  • 3
    He mentions this in terms of contrasting religious Jews with irreligious Jews (or generic sinners). Perhaps the Rebbe would concede that "l'havdil" is appropriate with respect to notoriously wicked people like those mentioned in the OP.
    – Fred
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 19:54

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