Monday, December 15, 2014

Saving individuals from punishment by blogging about their faults or How to have enemies suffer Divine punishment instead of you.

Berachos (55b) states that when a person becomes sick - he should keep it a secret for the first day. That is in order to not give Satan an excuse to harm him - by giving himself the status of a sick person. [See the Marhasha]  On the other hand if the sickness does not go away and he is in fact a sick person the gemora suggests a different strategy to bring about a cure. Instead of keeping his weakened state a secret to protect against Satan - the gemora says he should now publicize his misfortune. Rashi says that the sickness is viewed in the first place as punishment from G-d (see Shabbos 55a). Their are two reason for now publicizing one's misfortune. The first is obvious - so that his friends will pray for him. The second is not obvious - that his enemies will be happy to see him suffering. And it is known that one should not rejoice at the suffering of an enemy (Mishlei 24:17-18) Therefore  G-d will get angry at his enemy for being happy about his suffering and will take it away from the sick person and give the sickness to the enemy (Ibn Ezra and Malbim Mishlei 24:18).

It is interesting to note that this gemora clearly indicates that one should be concerned about suffering coming apparently independent of G-d - from bad luck and Satan. [Don't open your mouth to Satan]. The best way to deal with suffering from those sources is to simply conceal the misfortune and hope that it goes away quickly. There is no mention of repentance or that the sickness is a punishment from G-d except in Rashi.

The second strategy - when a person realizes he is a sick person and his suffering is not transient  - also doesn't involve repentance. Rather it is to reveal to the public that he is sick - and hope that his weakened state and misfortune will elicit laughter from an enemy. That laughter will cause G-d to stop punishing him and to punish his enemy.

Based on the gemora, I know people who do not want it publicized that they have serious aliments such as cancer. But I am not aware of anyone who is hoping to elicit a cruel rejoicing in his enemy so that the illness will be transferred to this enemy. However why is there is no mention of repentance when this is such an important issue mentioned elsewhere (Berachos 5a, Shabbos 55a, Yoma 86a, Rambam Hilchos Taanis 1:1-3, Ramban Shaar HaGemul 120:6)? Perhaps this is dealing with sickness which he knows is not the result of sin. (Ramban Shaar HaGemul 118, Berachos 5a, Shabbos 55a, Yerushalmi Shabbos 14:3, Kesubos 19a).

Is anybody aware of similar cases where the cause of  suffering (i.e., sin) is not dealt with directly by repenting but it is hoped that it can simply be transferred to someone else? [Scapegoat] Again we are dealing with a passive aggressive approach to enemies. Destroy them by showing them your weakness and failures so that they will rejoice. 

Perhaps this can be used is a justification for bloggers exposing the problems of the community so that the community will not suffer but rather those bloggers or readers who rejoice seeing the problems of others.


  1. The Gemora brought down in the post is in the context of a discussion of dreams. Furthermore, the term used for illness is not "Choleh", but "Chalish", weak. Perhaps the Gemora is not discussing a weakness from a physical ailment, but a weakness of desire to do things, where a person imagines he is incapable. This is an "illness of choice", and so is not in the "Hands of Heaven". People may sometimes be more likely to rejoice over an enemy losing his will to fight than over an enemy losing his ability to fight. In the movies, and in life, nothing energizes a man more sometimes than being down for the count. The referee is on one knee, the crowd is cheering for the opponent already raising his arm in victory, "...7...", the fighter who's on the mat shakes his head, "...8...", he pushes himself up a little, "nyyyyyn...", he jumps to his feet!

  2. I take issue with your use of the words "Except in Rashi." We are taught by our rebbeim that Rashi is pshuto shel mikra, and pshuto shel gemara. If Rashi says it, then it is pashut pshat in the Gemara. I seem to remember that the maskil in the story with the Vilna Gaon got punished by the Gaon for making a similar statement to what you said.

  3. @Nat I suggest you go back to your rebbe and tell you he forgot to teach you not only proper understanding of the texts but also elementary derech eretz.

    You might want to read Rav Aharon Feldman's crticism of the Steinzaltz translation of the Gemora. He notes that Rabbi Steinzaltz always translates the gemora according to Rashi. He says that is very problematic since Rashi can present a difficult understanding of the gemora. I guess you consider Rav Feldman a maskil also chas v'shalom.

  4. Maybe you had the wrong Rebbeim, because all the ראשונים that argued with רש"י felt that he got the פשוטו של מקרא or פשוטו של גמרא wrong. I guess those ראשונים weren't lucky enough to have your Rebbeim. I think when somebody uses the phrase "except for רש"י", he just means that a certain חידוש is only found in רש"י, and not elsewhere. That doesn't mean that Rabbi Eidensohn is a maskil, just that רש"י says a חידוש that may not be a דבר מוסכם.

  5. I don't mind sounding like a maskil, but you seem to have missed out saying anything about seeing a doctor. i agree that with some things even the doctors don't know how to treat it, but in many cases there is a treatment. At least take a parallel practical approach, whilst deciding whether to publicise it or to have one's enemies rejoice with schadenfreude.

  6. Sorry, I do not remember calling anyone a maskil.

  7. Not even Rashi's grandson thought that Rashi's commentary on Chumash constitutes pshuto shel mikra. But then, maybe the Rashbam didn't know as much as your rebbeim.

  8. Maskil/Meikil

    2 of the biggest insults in the Hareidi world!

  9. What is the biggest insult in your world?

  10. Clearly you are someone who knows little about the chareidi world.

  11. This is the Malbim
    מלבי"ם משלי פרק כד פסוק יח

    (יח) פן יראה ה' ורע בעיניו, שע"י שיראה אכזריותך ומדת הנקמה שבך, ידמה מעשהו מול מעשיך, ומעשיך ירע בעיניו, עד שיהיה צדיק נגדך, וישוב אפו מעליו, עליך

    This indicates that Hashem yisborach directly punishes the person and not some other external force.

  12. @Facts of Life - as I noted Rashi and others (including the Malbim and Ibn Ezra) do mention this. My point was that it is not a necessary understanding of the gemora. The gemora clearly emphasizes two mechanisms and doesn't mention sin and teshuva. This is obvious also from the fact that Rashi, Malbim and Ibn Ezra - have to state this.

    The verse as used in the gemora - indicates that G-d doesn't like someone making fun of the hardships of an enemy


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