י״ט במרחשון ה׳תשע״ג (November 4, 2012)

Shabbat 32a-b: Timing Heavenly Punishments

The Mishna at the end of yesterday’s daf concludes the aggadic treatment of the topic of kindling the lights with the teaching:

For three transgressions women are punished and die during childbirth: For the fact that they are not careful in observing the laws of a menstruating woman, and in separating ḥalla from the dough, and in lighting the lamp.

This teaching is examined in some detail on today’s daf where we find the Gemara first inquiring about the unique situation of childbirth and then asking about how men’s transgressions are punished. The Gemara teaches:

And, if so, what is different during childbirth? Why does the divine attribute of judgment punish them for dereliction in fulfillment of these mitzvot specifically then? The Gemara cites several folk sayings expressing the concept that when a person is in danger, he is punished for his sins. Rava said: If the ox fell, sharpen the knife to slaughter it. Abayye said: If the maidservant’s insolence abounds, she will be struck by a single blow as punishment for all her sins. So too, when a woman is giving birth and her suffering is great due to Eve’s sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, all the punishments for her own sins are added to that suffering.

And where are men examined? When are men vulnerable to judgment and held accountable for their actions? Reish Lakish said: When they are crossing a bridge. The Gemara wonders: Only when they are crossing a bridge and at no other time? Rather, say: Anything like a bridge, any place where danger is commonplace.

The fundamental concept underlying all of these statements is that only rarely do divine punishments come with no material foreshadowing. Nevertheless, the time for retribution is when one is in a dangerous situation engendered by external factors. The folk expressions cited here seek, in different ways and to varying degrees, to express the same concept: In times of distress, all of one’s outstanding debts with God are settled.

Previous
Next