Wednesday, August 23, 2023

gam zu ltova - comforting mourners

Bava Kamma (39a) When R. Samuel b. Judah lost a daugther the Rabbis said to ‘Ulla: ‘Let us go in and console him.’ But he answered them: ‘What have I to do with the consolation of the Babylonians, which is [almost tantamount to] blasphemy? For they say "What could have been done," which implies that were it possible to do anything they would have done it.’ He therefore went alone to the mourner and said to him: [Scripture says,] And the Lord spake unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle. Now [we may well ask], could it have entered the mind of Moses to wage war without [divine] sanction? [We must suppose] therefore that Moses of himself reasoned a fortiori as follows: If in the case of the Midianites who came only to assist the Moabites the Torah commanded ‘Vex the Midianites and smite them,’in the case of the Moabites [themselves] should not the same injunction apply even more strongly? But the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: The idea you have in your mind is not the idea I have in My mind. Two doves have I to bring forth from them;1 Ruth the Moabitess and Naamah the Ammonitess. Now cannot we base on this an a fortiori argument as follows: If for the sake of two virtuous descendants the Holy One, blessed be He, showed pity to two great nations so that they were not destroyed, may we not be assured that if your honour's daughter had indeed been righteous and worthy to have goodly issue, she would have continued to live?

Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 376) Gloss: A man should not say, 'I was not punished in accordance with my [evil] deeds,' or anything similar to these words, for a man should never utter anything in such a way as to give Satan an opening.9Thus implied in Ber. 19a and Hag. Alfasi ibid.G. Uttering such words would invite Satan to inflict more punishment. Neither should a man say to a mourner, 'What could you have done; it is impossible to change [God's verdict],' for this is regarded as blashphemy, since it implies that were it possible to change [the verdict] he would have done so; but one should accept God's decree out of love.10N.Yos. to B.K. 38a — G. MaHaRShaL rejects this ruling in view of the fact that King David uttered a similar statement on the loss of his child, viz., ‘But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me’ (II Sam. XII, 23), which implies that were it possible to bring him back again, he would have done so. TaZ opposes MaHaRShaL and defends this ruling on the grounds that in the case of King David he merely expressed the fact that after death, fasting etc. is of no avail, but prior to death, needless to say, one should engage in prayer and fasting in order to counteract impending death. But once a person has suffered a bereavement, prayer and fasting no longer help. Hence, if one says to a mourner, ‘What could you have done etc.’ it is tantamount to blashphemy. also P.Tesh. For this very reason the Taḥanun prayer is not recited in a mourner’s home, since it contains the words, ‘I have sinned etc.,’ nor the penitential prayer (והוא רחום) which contains, ‘deal not with us according to our sins’

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