Monday, August 13, 2012

Berachot 12b: Making oneself ill by praying

On Berachot 12b:
ואמר רבה בר חיננא סבא משמיה דרב כל שאפשר לו לבקש רחמים על חבירו ואינו מבקש נקרא חוטא שנאמר (שמואל א יב, כג) גם אנכי חלילה לי מחטא לה' מחדול להתפלל בעדכם אמר רבא אם ת"ח הוא צריך שיחלה עצמו עליו מ"ט אילימא משום דכתיב (שמואל א כב, ח)ואין חולה מכם עלי (ואין) [ו] גולה את אזני דילמא מלך שאני אלא מהכא (תהלים לה, יג) ואני בחלותם לבושי וגו':
Or, in English:
Raba b. Hinena the elder said further in the name of Rab: If one is in a position to pray on behalf of his fellow and does not do so, he is called a sinner, as it says, Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.6  Raba said: If [his fellow] is a scholar, he must pray for him even to the point of making himself ill. What is the ground for this? Shall I say, because it is written, There is none of you that is sick for me or discloseth unto me?7  Perhaps the case of a king is different. It is in fact derived from here: But as for me, when they8  were sick, my clothing was sackcloth, I afflicted my soul with fasting.9
There is a difference between שנאמר and דכתיב, where the former is Hebrew and the latter is Aramaic. The former is more clearly a support stated by the named Amora while the latter, especially as it is rejected for another pasuk, has the possibility of being authored by the setama degemara.

I would propose the following prooftext for Rava: גם אנכי חלילה לי מחטא לה' מחדול להתפלל בעדכם, which is the same as the prooftext of Rabba bar Chinena the elder. He was, after all, reacting to that statement. And how does he deduce that one should make oneself sick? He is darshening the phrase חלילה לי, as 'I should become a choleh'. And this extra derivation is reserved for someone who is more worthy than the one of the simpler derivation from this pasuk.

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