כ״א בסיון ה׳תשע״ז (June 15, 2017)

Bava Batra 144a-b: Becoming Ill Through Negligence

How much of what happens to us is in our hands, and how much is in God’s hands?

This question is the crux of a discussion about how much brothers will be responsible for each others’ illnesses.

The Mishna on today’s daf teaches that brothers who are being supported by their father’s estate will share equally in profits or losses made by one of the brothers who was pressed into imperial service, since he was chosen as the representative from the family.  If one of the brothers becomes ill and must pay medical bills, he is responsible to pay that out of his own pocket.

In the Gemara, Ravin quotes Rabbi Ela as teaching that the sick brother is responsible for his medical bills only if he was the cause of his own illness. If he could not have prevented his illness, then all would share to pay for his medical care.

What illness is he responsible for? Rabbi Ḥanina taught – ha-kol be-yedei shamayim, ḥutz mi- tzinin u’paḥim – all is in God’s hands, except for colds and obstacles. Thus a person is responsible to avoid illnesses caused by these things.

That tzinin u’paḥim are in human hands is decided based on a passage in Mishlei (22:5) that teaches that tzinin u’paḥim are stumbling blocks that an intelligent person knows to avoid. As far as the passage in Mishlei is concerned, most of the commentaries there agree that the words tzinin u’paḥim mean thorns and obstacles. Nevertheless, in the context of our Gemara the term is interpreted in a number of different ways. Rashi and most of the commentaries on the Talmud understand it to mean “cold and heat.” The intention, however, is one. Most calamities that befall a person appear suddenly, and a person cannot possibly prepare himself for them. There are, however, calamities that a person brings upon himself because he is not careful and does not plan in advance.

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