For a while now, the letter of Revital Avraham has been making the rounds of the internet and shuls. However, it seems that the story finally found someone who can give it major publicity -- Rebbetzin Jungries. As she writes in her weekly Jewish Press column:
Special Note: A young girl, struggling with the Angel of Death, wrote the following letter. At her request, the letter was sent to many rabbis and rebbetzinsin a position to disseminate her message among our people. Tragically, she is no longer here to see her letter published, but as we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, her neshamahwill surely have an aliyahin the knowledge that her request has been fulfilled and her message read and taken to heart by many.
She then reprints her letter in full. I'm not going to reprint it, but I will provide a summary. The letter can be seen in English and the original Hebrew here.
In short, the letter from Revital Avraham says that she is nineteen years old and is dying. She was a young girl blessed with physical beauty from an early age. She attracted attention from others around her and grew her hair long. She was told by her teachers to keep her beauty for that someone special in her life, but she did not listen and continued to flaunt her looks.
When she was sixteen, she received a warning when her hair caught fire while frying an omlette. She was terribly upset that her hair was gone. Her father tried to console her saying:
Revital, Hashem has made a miracle. You could have been entirely burnt! You now have an opportunity to change and leave your foolish attitude behind you."
However, she was sixteen and probably had an attitude like many teenagers. Her hair grew back over the next two years. She began wearing tight clothes and even "got involved in some trouble." (Her words -- we have no way of knowing what that entails.)
When she was 17, her beloved grandmother died. Her grandmother had tried to help her on her mend her ways, but could not do so. After her death, Revital changed her behavior for the better for a while, but then fell back into her old habits.
A while later, Revital had a dream. Her grandmother was sitting on a stone crying. When asked why she was crying, she wordlessly pointed to her head. However, Revital ignored that warning as well.
A short while later, after complaining about headaches, she went to see a doctor where she was given the bad news that she was dying.
Now dying, Revital is writing this letter to warn young girls of the dangers of dressing immodestly and being overly beautiful.
The letter ends with the postscript that Revital died shortly after composing the letter and asked in her will that it be distributed.
Let me state up front that I have no idea whether or not the story is true. In fact, that's a part of the purpose of this post -- to ask if any of my readers knew Revital (even second-handedly) or any of her relatives.
To me the language of the letter in no way sounds like it came from a nineteen year old -- nineteen year olds simply don't speak that way -- it's just idiomatically wrong. But then again, that's because I read the translation. I read the original Hebrew, but I'm not familiar enough with modern conversational Hebrew to know if it's more in line with the way an actual nineteen year old would write.
Another problem that I have with this is that in all my searches on the web (and I've done a few already), I could never find any other details to corroborate the story. No place of residence, no date of death, no name of school -- nothing. A lack of detail in a story is one of the first signs that it's an urban legend.
The last concern I have about this letter is the implication that it makes -- i.e. be sure to keep the mitzvah of tznius properly or else be subject to terrible life-threatening illnesses. Assuming for a moment that the story is true - how does Revital know that her illness is due to her lack of adherence to the mitzvah of tznius? There are, unfortunately, people who are very stringent in tznius who get sick and there are those who are lax and live long, healthy lives. Is it because she had a dream where her grandmother pointed at her head? That's quite a leap to come to that conclusion. And it's also quite a leap to apply it universally as a warning -- especially when we see that there are plenty of people who are lax in the mitzvah of tznius and don't end up with brain tumors.
So, does anyone know of any corroborating evidence for the story? Does anyone know if the whole thing is a hoax or urban legend?