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Repulsive And Disgraceful
“The Holy One … Does Not Cause Mishaps To The Righteous”
(Gittin 7a)



R. Avahu says that “a person should always take care not to instill excessive fear in his house” for it can lead to a terrible outcome, an example of which the Gemara relates.

A great man once instilled such fear in his family that, as a result, they almost caused him to violate a Torah commandment. According to Rashi (s.v. Ever min ha’chai), R. Hanina b. Gamaliel’s servants had accidentally lost a limb of a slaughtered animal that they were to prepare for his meal. Due to their fear of him, they cut off a limb from a live animal and substituted it.

The Gemara, based on the rule that “G-d does not set a stumbling block before the righteous,” objects to the possibility that R. Hanina b. Gamaliel was fed ever min ha’chai. Rather, they suggest that what happened was that the servants sought to feed him the forbidden food but at the last moment he was spared from eating it [through Divine intervention].


Is It a Steadfast Rule?

In light of several passages in the Talmud (Shabbos 12b; Chagiga 16b; Ketubbot 28b) describing how various righteous individuals inadvertently committed sins, Tosafos (s.v. hashta…) question the rule that “G-d does not set a stumbling block before the righteous.”


The Disgrace of Forbidden Food

Tosafos distinguish between sins that pertain to the consumption of food and other sins. They explain that G-d protects the righteous from the inadvertent consumption of forbidden food because it is a particularly disgraceful sin. That is why the Gemara assumes as a matter of fact that R. Hanina b. Gamaliel did not eat the forbidden food that they served him. The mentioned cases of sins committed inadvertently by certain righteous individuals did not pertain to eating, and there is, indeed, no guarantee that Hashem will protect a righteous person from other sins.


Timtum HaLev

The Netziv (Meromei Sadeh to Shabbos 12b) explains that G-d protects tzaddikim from mistakenly eating non-kosher food because such foods cause timtum halev (lit. obstruction of the heart, meaning that they affect a person’s spiritual growth and character development).

On the other hand, no such protection is guaranteed regarding other sins, since the inadvertent commission of other types of sins does not result in obstruction of the heart.


Pikuach Nefesh

Interestingly, the HaGahoth Mordechai (ad loc.) applies the distinction drawn by Tosafos to the law of pikuach nefesh (saving endangered lives) on the Sabbath.

If a dangerously ill person must, on a physician’s order, eat meat on the Sabbath and only non-kosher meat is readily available, some authorities – as cited by the Rosh, who does not subscribe to this view (Yoma ch. 8 siman 14) – maintain that the ailing person should be fed the available non-kosher meat rather than have an animal slaughtered to provide him with kosher meat. This ruling is based on the fact that slaughtering on the Sabbath is a kares-bearing sin, whereas eating non-kosher meat is not; and as a rule, when faced with a choice, it is better to violate the less severe sin.


Slaughter on the Sabbath?

However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim 328:14) rules in accordance with the Rosh, who permits slaughtering an animal on the Sabbath to provide a deathly ill person with kosher meat. The Rosh explains that it is preferable to slaughter an animal to obtain kosher meat because the sick person might find the non-kosher meat repulsive and might refuse to eat it, thereby endangering his life. [The Ran (Yoma ad loc.) explains that eating non-kosher meat might be considered a graver sin than violating the Sabbath because one is liable for each kezayis quantity that one consumes.]

Alternatively, the HaGahoth Mordechai (Yoma, siman 463) suggests that even if the sick person is not repelled by the non-kosher meat, he should still be provided with kosher meat since eating non-kosher food is particularly disgraceful, as Tosafos point out.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.