״רֵאשִׁית״ קָרָאתִי אֶתְכֶם — עַל עִסְקֵי רֵאשִׁית הִזְהַרְתִּי אֶתְכֶם. נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּתַתִּי בָּכֶם קְרוּיָה ״נֵר״ — עַל עִסְקֵי נֵר הִזְהַרְתִּי אֶתְכֶם. אִם אַתֶּם מְקַיְּימִים אוֹתָם — מוּטָב, וְאִם לָאו — הֲרֵינִי נוֹטֵל נִשְׁמַתְכֶם.
I called you first, as it is stated: “Israel is the Lord’s hallowed portion, His first fruits of the increase” (Jeremiah 2:3) and I warned you about matters of the first: “Of the first of your dough you shall set apart ḥalla for a gift” (Numbers 15:20). The soul that I have placed in you is called ner: “The spirit of man is the lamp [ner] of the Lord” (Proverbs 20:27), and I warned you about matters of the Shabbat lamp. If you fulfill these mitzvot, fine, and if not, then I will take your soul.
וּמַאי שְׁנָא בִּשְׁעַת לֵידָתָן? אָמַר רָבָא: נְפַל תּוֹרָא — חַדֵּד לְסַכִּינָא. אַבָּיֵי אָמַר: תַּפִּישׁ תֵּירוּס אַמְּתָא, בְּחַד מַחְטְרָא לֶיהֱוֵי. רַב חִסְדָּא אָמַר: שִׁבְקֵיהּ לְרַוְיָא, דְּמִנַּפְשֵׁיהּ נָפֵיל. מָר עוּקְבָא אָמַר: רָעֲיָא חֲגִרָא וְעִיזֵּי רָהֲטָן, אַבָּב חוּטְרָא מִילֵּי, וְאַבֵּי דָרֵי חוּשְׁבָּנָא. רַב פָּפָּא אָמַר: אַבָּב חַנְוָאתָא נְפִישִׁי אַחֵי וּמְרַחֲמֵי, אַבָּב בִּזְיוֹנֵי — לָא אַחֵי וְלָא מְרַחֲמֵי.
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. Abaye 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. Rav Ḥisda said: Leave the drunk, as he falls on his own. Similarly, the time of birth is a time of danger, and if the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not come to her assistance at that time, that is sufficient to cause her death. Mar Ukva said: The shepherd is crippled, and the goats are running, and he cannot catch them. However, next to the gate, he speaks harsh words, and inside the pen he settles the account. Similarly, as long as a woman is in a healthy state, her sins are in abeyance, and she is not held accountable for them. However, when she is giving birth, which is a time of danger, she is held accountable for her sins and a calculation is made whether or not she is worthy of a miracle. Rav Pappa said: At the entrance to the stores, during a time of prosperity, brothers and loved ones abound. When a person is prospering financially, everyone acts like his brother or friend. However, at the gate of disgrace, during a time of loss and poverty, he has no brothers and no loved ones; everyone abandons him.
וְגַבְרֵי הֵיכָא מִיבַּדְקִי? אָמַר רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעוֹבְרִים עַל הַגֶּשֶׁר. גֶּשֶׁר וְתוּ לָא? אֵימָא: כְּעֵין גֶּשֶׁר. רַב לָא עָבַר בְּמַבָּרָא דְּיָתֵיב בֵּיהּ גּוֹי, אָמַר: דִילְמָא מִיפְּקִיד לֵיהּ דִּינָא עֲלֵיהּ וּמִתְּפִיסְנָא בַּהֲדֵיהּ. שְׁמוּאֵל לָא עָבַר אֶלָּא בְּמַבָּרָא דְּאִית בֵּיהּ גּוֹי, אָמַר: שִׂטְנָא בִּתְרֵי אוּמֵּי לָא שָׁלֵיט.
And the Gemara asks: 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. On a similar note, the Gemara relates: Rav would not cross a river in a ferry in which a gentile sat. He said to himself: Perhaps a judgment will be reckoned with him, and I will be caught together with him when he is punished. Whereas, Shmuel would only cross in a ferry if there was a gentile in it. He said: Satan does not have dominion over two nations. He settles his accounts with people from each nationality separately.
רַבִּי יַנַּאי בָּדֵיק וְעָבַר. רַבִּי יַנַּאי לְטַעְמֵיהּ, דְּאָמַר: לְעוֹלָם אַל יַעֲמוֹד אָדָם בְּמָקוֹם סַכָּנָה לוֹמַר שֶׁעוֹשִׂין לוֹ נֵס, שֶׁמָּא אֵין עוֹשִׂין לוֹ נֵס. וְאִם עוֹשִׂין לוֹ נֵס — מְנַכִּין לוֹ מִזְּכֻיוֹתָיו. אָמַר רַבִּי חָנִין: מַאי קְרָאָה? — ״קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכׇּל הָאֱמֶת״. רַבִּי זֵירָא בְּיוֹמָא דְשׁוּתָא לָא נָפֵיק לְבֵינֵי דִּיקְלֵי.
Rabbi Yannai would examine the ferry and cross. The Gemara comments that Rabbi Yannai acted in accordance with his reasoning stated elsewhere, as he said: A person should never stand in a place of danger saying that they on High will perform a miracle for him, lest in the end they do not perform a miracle for him. And, moreover, even if they do perform a miracle for him, they will deduct it from his merits. Rabbi Ḥanin said: What is the verse that alludes to this? When Jacob said: “I am not worthy of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which You have shown unto Your servant” (Genesis 32:11), and he explains: Since You have bestowed upon me so much kindness and truth, my merits have been diminished. Similarly, the Gemara relates that Rabbi Zeira would not go out and walk among the palm trees on a day when there was a southern wind blowing due to the fear that the trees might fall on him.
אָמַר רַב יִצְחָק בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַב יְהוּדָה: לְעוֹלָם יְבַקֵּשׁ אָדָם רַחֲמִים שֶׁלֹּא יֶחֱלֶה, שֶׁאִם יֶחֱלֶה אוֹמְרִים לוֹ: הָבֵא זְכוּת וְהִפָּטֵר. אָמַר מָר עוּקְבָא: מַאי קְרָאָה? — ״כִּי יִפּוֹל הַנּוֹפֵל מִמֶּנּוּ״ — מִמֶּנּוּ לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה. תָּנָא דְּבֵי רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל: ״כִּי יִפּוֹל הַנּוֹפֵל מִמֶּנּוּ״ (מִמֶּנּוּ) — רָאוּי זֶה לִיפּוֹל מִשֵּׁשֶׁת יְמֵי בְרֵאשִׁית, שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא נָפַל, וְהַכָּתוּב קְרָאוֹ ״נוֹפֵל״. אֶלָּא, שֶׁמְגַלְגְּלִין זְכוּת עַל יְדֵי זַכַּאי וְחוֹבָה עַל יְדֵי חַיָּיב.
In a similar vein, Rav Yitzḥak, son of Rav Yehuda, said: A person should always pray that he will not become ill, as if he becomes ill they say to him: Bring proof of your virtue and exempt yourself. It is preferable for a person not to be forced to prove that he merits staying alive, as he might not be able to prove it. Mar Ukva said: What is the verse that alludes to this? As it says: “When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you bring not blood upon your house, if the fallen falls mimenu” (Deuteronomy 22:8). He explains: Mimenu, from him proof must be brought. When one falls from his previous situation, it is his own responsibility to prove his innocence and emerge unharmed. The school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: What is the meaning of the phrase: If the fallen falls from it? This person was destined to fall from that roof from the six days of Creation, it was ingrained into nature. As, although he did not yet fall, the verse calls him fallen. Nevertheless, the owner of the house is indicted for this, as merit is engendered by means of the innocent and guilt by means of the guilty.
תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: מִי שֶׁחָלָה וְנָטָה לָמוּת, אוֹמְרִים לוֹ: הִתְוַדֵּה, שֶׁכֵּן כׇּל הַמּוּמָתִין מִתְוַדִּין. אָדָם יוֹצֵא לַשּׁוּק, יְהִי דּוֹמֶה בְּעֵינָיו כְּמִי שֶׁנִּמְסַר לְסַרְדְּיוֹט. חָשׁ בְּרֹאשׁוֹ — יְהִי דּוֹמֶה בְּעֵינָיו כְּמִי שֶׁנְּתָנוּהוּ בְּקוֹלָר. עָלָה לַמִּטָּה וְנָפַל — יְהִי דּוֹמֶה בְּעֵינָיו כְּמִי שֶׁהֶעְלוּהוּ לַגַּרְדּוֹם לִידּוֹן, שֶׁכָּל הָעוֹלֶה לַגַּרְדּוֹם לִידּוֹן אִם יֵשׁ לוֹ פְּרַקְלִיטִין גְּדוֹלִים — נִיצּוֹל, וְאִם לָאו — אֵינוֹ נִיצּוֹל.
The Sages taught: One who became ill and tended toward death, they say to him: Confess, as all those executed by the courts confess. Even if he is dying of natural causes, it is worthwhile for him to consider his death atonement for his sins. The Sages said: When a person goes out to the marketplace where there are fights and disputes, he should consider himself as someone who has been handed over to a soldier [seradiyot]. If his head hurt, he should consider it as if they placed him in a chain [kolar] around his neck. If he climbed into bed and fell ill, he should consider himself as if they took him up to the gallows to be judged, as with regard to anyone who goes up to the gallows to be judged, if he has great advocates [peraklitin], he is spared, and if not, he is not spared.
וְאֵלּוּ הֵן פְּרַקְלִיטִין שֶׁל אָדָם: תְּשׁוּבָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים. וַאֲפִילּוּ תְּשַׁע מֵאוֹת וְתִשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה מְלַמְּדִים עָלָיו חוֹבָה וְאֶחָד מְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת — נִיצּוֹל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״אִם יֵשׁ עָלָיו מַלְאָךְ מֵלִיץ אֶחָד מִנִּי אָלֶף לְהַגִּיד לְאָדָם יׇשְׁרוֹ. וַיְחֻנֶּנּוּ וַיֹּאמֶר פְּדָעֵהוּ מֵרֶדֶת שָׁחַת וְגוֹ׳״. רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בְּנוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי אוֹמֵר: אֲפִילּוּ תְּשַׁע מֵאוֹת וְתִשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה בְּאוֹתוֹ מַלְאָךְ לְחוֹבָה וְאֶחָד לִזְכוּת — נִיצּוֹל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״מֵלִיץ אֶחָד מִנִּי אָלֶף״.
And with regard to divine judgment, these are a person’s advocates: Repentance and good deeds. The Gemara comments: And even if there are nine hundred ninety-nine asserting his guilt and only one asserting his innocence, he is spared, as it is stated: “If there be for him an angel, an advocate, one among a thousand, to vouch for a man’s uprightness; then He is gracious unto him, and says: Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom” (Job 33:23–24). Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yosei HaGelili, says: Even if there are nine hundred ninety-nine portions within that same angel accusing him, and one portion asserting his innocence, he is spared, as it stated: “An advocate, one among a thousand.” Even when the advocate who asserts his innocence finds only one-tenth of one percent of innocence in this man, even then, he is gracious unto him, and says: Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom.
תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: עַל שָׁלֹשׁ עֲבֵירוֹת נָשִׁים מֵתוֹת יוֹלְדוֹת. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר נָשִׁים מֵתוֹת יְלָדוֹת. רַבִּי אַחָא אוֹמֵר בְּעָוֹן שֶׁמְּכַבְּסוֹת צוֹאַת בְּנֵיהֶם בְּשַׁבָּת. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים: עַל שֶׁקּוֹרִין לַאֲרוֹן הַקּוֹדֶשׁ ״אֲרָנָא״.
The Sages taught in a baraita: For three transgressions women die in childbirth [yoledot]. Rabbi Elazar has a different version and says that women die when they are young [yeladot]. These transgressions are those enumerated in the mishna: The halakhot of a menstruating woman, ḥalla, and Shabbat lights. Rabbi Aḥa says they are punished for the sin of laundering their children’s feces from clothing on Shabbat. And some say: Because they call the Holy Ark simply ark.
תַּנְיָא, רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר: בַּעֲוֹן שְׁנֵי דְבָרִים עַמֵּי הָאֲרָצוֹת מֵתִים — עַל שֶׁקּוֹרִין לַאֲרוֹן הַקּוֹדֶשׁ ״אֲרָנָא״, וְעַל שֶׁקּוֹרִין לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת ״בֵּית עָם״. תַּנְיָא רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר: שְׁלֹשָׁה בִּדְקֵי מִיתָה נִבְרְאוּ בָּאִשָּׁה, וְאָמְרִי לַהּ: שְׁלֹשָׁה דִּבְקֵי מִיתָה: נִדָּה וְחַלָּה וְהַדְלָקַת הַנֵּר. חֲדָא כְּרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר וַחֲדָא כְּרַבָּנַן.
Similarly, we learned in a baraita that Rabbi Yishmael ben Elazar says: On account of two sins, ignoramuses [amei ha’aretz] die young (Rav Ya’akov Emden): Because they call the Holy Ark simply ark, and because they call the synagogue the house of the people. It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yosei says: Three crucibles potentially leading to death were created in the woman, and some say: Three accelerants of death. They are: Menstruation, ḥalla, and lighting the Shabbat lights. The Gemara explains that one version, accelerants of death, is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Elazar, who said that women die young. And the other one, crucibles of death, is in accordance with the opinion of the Rabbis, who said that women die in childbirth.
תַּנְיָא רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר: הִלְכוֹת הֶקְדֵּשׁ, תְּרוּמוֹת וּמַעַשְׂרוֹת — הֵן הֵן גּוּפֵי תּוֹרָה,
Similarly, it was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says: The halakhot of consecrated items, terumot, and tithes are themselves the essence of Torah and are extremely severe,