Being careful in the matters of danger listed by our Sages and recorded in Halacha

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Rabbinical Dangers-Being careful in the matters of danger listed by our Sages and recorded in Halacha:[1]

There are many matters which the sages[2] prohibited due to them potentially leading to danger of life[3], and whoever transgresses them and says, “I will endanger myself and it’s none of anyone else’s business,” or says “I [do not worry of the chance of danger and] choose not to be careful about this,” is liable to receive lashes known as Makas Mardus.[4] [It is likewise forbidden for one to rely on a miracle or for one to endanger his life, in any of these matters of the like.[5] One who is careful to beware of them, on him will befall a good blessing.[6]]

The categories of Rabbinical listed dangers and their level of obligation: There are various categories of dangers recorded in the writings of Chazal, some deriving directly from the Talmud, and some from later authorities, primarily from the works of Rav Yehuda Hachassid. The extent to which one must abide by these dangers will be discussed in Chapter 2.


Is the danger physical, for the body, or spiritual, for the soul:

It is possible that by some of the Rabbinically enacted dangers, the dangerous effect is not to the physical body, but rather to the soul.[7] For example, it is possible that not guarding the danger can suddenly cause one to lose all his motivation in serving G-d in prayer and Torah learning.[8]

Ruach Ra’ah: One of the more common supernatural dangers is a danger due to reasons of Ruach Ra’ah, or the evil spirit. Some Poskim[9] rule that although a person will not be actually harmed if he transgresses one of the Ruach Ra’ah Dangers on mere occasion, if he does so often, he will certainly be harmed.

Why are gentiles not affected by these dangers?[10]

We find that many of the recorded dangers in the Talmud which are followed only by Jews and not Gentiles do not seem to negatively affect the health of Gentiles. The reason for this is not because these recorded dangers are in truth not dangerous at all, but rather because the Jewish people have a different physique than Gentiles. Jews are more refined in nature due to the giving of the Torah and keeping of the Mitzvos and thus the body becomes a lot more sensitive to anything coarse and negative. Ever since we received the Torah on Mount Sinai, the impurity that was entered to the human body through the bite of the snake in the times of Adam has ceased, and made the Jewish body more refined.[11] Therefore, the body of a Jew is more prone to subtle dangers than is the body of a Gentile.[12] Furthermore, Gentiles eat non-kosher foods and insects and reptiles, which makes their body more coarse and less prone to the more subtle dangers.[13] For this reason, one can explain also why we see secular jews who do not abide by the dangers recorded in the Talmud and are nonetheless not health compromised.[14] [Perhaps this is similar to one who is wealthy and pampered and is repulsed by foods that normal people would eat without a problem in times of need.]


[1] Admur C.M. Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh 4; Michaber 427:9-10; Rambam Rotzeiach 11:5; Rama Y.D. 116:5 “All the matters to be listed are forbidden due to danger and one who guards his soul is to distance himself from it.”; Darkei Teshuvah Y.D. 116:57

[2] The scriptural basis: This Rabbinical prohibition is based on the verse “Hishamer Lecha, Ushemor Nafshecha Meod/Beware for yourself and guard your soul very much.” [Smeh C.M. 427:12; Imrei Yaakov 10:15; Omitted from Admur ibid] Seemingly, the sages learned from the word “Meod” that there are additional matters of safety that a person must be careful in, even though Biblically the percentage of danger is not high enough to include it in the Biblical prohibition of “Do not spill blood in your home.”

Is this prohibition Biblical or Rabbinical-Does one transgress a Biblical command on the matters listed by the Sages? Some Poskim rule that these matters are only Rabbinically mandated for one to beware from, and the above verse is a mere Asmachta. [Implication of wording of Admur and Michaber ibid as after mentioning the negative commands applicable by one who does not remove a hazard from his home he goes ahead and mentions all the matters which the Sages forbade, thus implying that these matters are merely Rabbinical, and so is also implied from the fact that only Makos Mardus is given; Beir Hagoleh 427 Ayin; Implication of Ben Ish Chaiy Pinchas 2] Other Poskim, however, rule it is a Biblical obligation based on the above verse that was revealed by the Sages, although only Rabbinical lashes are given being that it is Chatzi Shiur. [Tevuos Shur 13:2; Chidushei Chasam Sofer Avoda Zara 30a;] Practically, it all depends on the percentage of danger, as if the chance of danger is very high, such as one who walks on an unsteady bridge or ladder, then he Biblically transgresses and is liable for Biblical lashes, while if the level of danger is low, then it is only Rabbinically forbidden. [See Darkei Teshuvah 116:57 in name of Shem Aryeh Y.D. 27 that so is the intent of Admur here; Avnei Tzedek Y.D. 49; Igros Moshe C.M. 2:76; Yabia Omer 1 Y.D. 8; Betzeil Hachochmah 4:118; Shulchan Chaiy Pesicha; Yad Yitzchak 2:80] See Imrei Yaakov 10:15; See Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] Mavo Chapter 1; See in length Encyclopedia Hilchatit Refuit Erech Berius Vol. 2 pp. 352-355

[3] Admur ibid; Michaber 427:9

[4] Admur ibid; Michaber 427:10

How many lashes are given by Malkus Mardus: Some say it consists of 13 lashes. [Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam] Others say it consists of 39 lashes, as the Biblical one’s [Tosafos and Rashba], and others rule that it is given in accordance to the estimate of the Beis Din of how many lashes he can handle. [Rabbeinu Yona; See M”B 496:3] See Sdei Chemed 5 p. 53; Imrei Yaakov 10:16

[5] Rama ibid

[6] Michaber ibid; Omitted from Admur ibid

[7] Nachalas Avos 28b; Soles Belula, brought in Kaf Hachaim 4:19, explains that all the above mentioned consequences of touching the body with impure hands refers to spiritual matters. Meaning if one touches his eyes or ears then on that day he will be blind or deaf to matters of Torah that he reads or hears.

[8] The Tzemach Tzedek once witnessed his helper going to eat food that was left under the bed. The helper said to the Tzemach Tzedek “Rebbe, I do not fear the evil spirit.” The Tzemach Tzedek replied “Fool, fool, Do you know what an evil spirit is? It causes you for three days to not want to learn or Daven.” [heard from Rav Eliyahu Landau Shlita]

[9] Makor Chaim of Chavos Yair 4:3

[10] See Ben Ish Chaiy Pinchas 2; Yabia Omer 1:8; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] Mavo Chapter 5

[11] See Shabbos 146a.

[12] Ben Ish Chaiy ibid

[13] Avoda Zara 31b; Ben Ish Chaiy Pinchas 2.

[14] Yabia Omer ibid

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