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Two Approaches to Yesurim shel Ahava – On Second Thought

On Second Thought: Delving Into the Sugya with Rabbanit Yafit Clymer

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Bava Metzia 85-89

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בבא מציעא פה

אָמַר רַבִּי, חֲבִיבִין יִסּוּרִין

 

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said to himself: Afflictions are evidently precious. 

 

תהילים צ״ד:י”ב 

״אַשְׁרֵ֤י ׀ הַגֶּ֣בֶר אֲשֶׁר־תְּיַסְּרֶ֣נּוּ יָּ֑-הּ וּֽמִתּוֹרָתְךָ֥ תְלַמְּדֶֽנּוּ׃

 

Happy is the man whom You discipline, O LORD,
the man You instruct in Your teaching,

 

ירמיהו י׳:כ״ד   

 יַסְּרֵ֥נִי יְהֹוָ֖ה אַךְ־בְּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט אַל־בְּאַפְּךָ֖ פֶּן־תַּמְעִטֵֽנִי׃

O Lord, correct me, but in due measure, not in Thy anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.

 

Therefore, Lord, chastise me and instruct me, but do so with justice, taking into account my frailties and limitations; do not do so in Your wrath lest I will be unable to withstand it and You diminish me.

 

Berakhot 5a:9-10

Previously, the Gemara discussed suffering that results from one’s transgressions. The Gemara shifts the focus and discusses suffering that does not result from one’s transgressions and the suffering of the righteous. Rava, and some say Rav isda, said: If a person sees that suffering has befallen him, he should examine his actions. Generally, suffering comes about as punishment for one’s transgressions, as it is stated: “We will search and examine our ways, and return to God” (Lamentations 3:40). If he examined his ways and found no transgression for which that suffering is appropriate, he may attribute his suffering to dereliction in the study of Torah. God punishes an individual for dereliction in the study of Torah in order to emphasize the gravity of the issue, as it is stated: “Happy is the man whom You punish, Lord, and teach out of Your law” (Psalms 94:12). This verse teaches us that his suffering will cause him to return to Your law. And if he did attribute his suffering to dereliction in the study of Torah, and did not find this to be so, he may be confident that these are afflictions of love, as it is stated: “For whom the Lord loves, He rebukes, as does a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12).

 

Additionally, it was taught in a baraita with regard to affliction: Rabbi Shimon ben Yoai says: The Holy One, Blessed be He, gave Israel three precious gifts, all of which were given only by means of suffering, which purified Israel so that they may merit to receive them. These gifts are: Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the World-to-Come.

 

The Gemara continues to address the issue of suffering and affliction: Rabbi Yoanan’s student, Rabbi iyya bar Abba, fell ill. Rabbi Yoanan entered to visit him, and said to him: Is your suffering dear to you? Do you desire to be ill and afflicted? Rabbi iyya said to him: I welcome neither this suffering nor its reward,

 

משנה אבות ד׳:ט״ו

רַבִּי יַנַּאי אוֹמֵר, אֵין בְּיָדֵינוּ לֹא מִשַּׁלְוַת הָרְשָׁעִים וְאַף לֹא מִיִּסּוּרֵי הַצַּדִּיקִים. 

Rabbi Yannai said: it is not in our hands [to explain the reason] either of the security of the wicked, or even of the afflictions of the righteous.

 

Bartenura

 

“We do not have in our hands”: Like (Yevamot 105a), “it was not in his hand;” meaning to say this matter is not known to us, why the way of the wicked is successful and for what reason the righteous are suffering with afflictions. Another explanation: During the time of the exile, we do not have any of the tranquility and quiet that the Holy One, blessed be He, is accustomed to give to the wicked in order to drive them out of the world to come; and not even any of the afflictions that are designated for the righteous, which are the ‘afflictions of love,’ which do not entail the squandering of Torah [study]. This is to say, we have left the category of the wicked, as we do not have the tranquility that the wicked have; but we have not reached the category of the righteous, as our afflictions are not [‘afflictions] of love,’ like the afflictions of the righteous.

 

Bereshit Rabbah 92:1

There is no man who goes through life without afflictions!

ברכות נ״ט א:ד׳

בשעה שהקב”ה זוכר את בניו ששרויים בצער בין אומות העולם מוריד שתי דמעות לים הגדול וקולו נשמע מסוף העולם ועד סופו והיינו גוהא

Berakhot 59a:4

When the Holy Blessed One, remembers their children who are suffering among the nations of the world, God sheds two tears into the great sea. The sound is heard from one end of the earth to the other. And that is an earthquake

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer is a senior lecturer in Jewish Studies at the several Matan learning centers, at 'Emunah' and WebYeshiva. She is a group instructor for various programs. Rabbanit Clymer is part of the steering committee of the 'Beit Hillel' organization and answers halachic questions online as a part of their Meshivat Nefesh project.
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