Halachic Hazards Encyclopedia Letter I

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Letter I


A. Items of idolatry:[1] [Achronim]

It is a danger for one to take items of idolatry, including their vessels, cups, or clothing.


B. Not to look at the face of idolatry:[2] [Sefer Chassidim]

It is forbidden to stare at the face of idolatry [and if one does so his prayers will not be accepted for 40 days[3]]. However, one may do so for the sake of Pikuach Nefesh.



A. When to begin Davening for a sick person-How sick must they be?[5] [Talmud/Achronim]

When someone has become ill, one is not to spread the word to the public until several days pass. The reason for this is because when one spreads the word that an individual is sick, and people view him in this status, his Mazal becomes diminished.[6] One may, however, spread the word to family and friends even on the first day. If the death is imminent, then one may spread the news even on that day. Based on the above, it is ruled that when a person falls ill, family and friends may visit the ill person right away, while other individuals are only to visit after the passing of three days from when he fell ill.[7] If, however, death is imminent, then everyone may visit immediately. [Based on this, one can learn that one should not prematurely spread negative medical news about an individual or a relative prior to confirmation of their illness and as to its severity. Even if one has good intents in doing so in order so people pray for their wellness, or to get a good diagnosis, it has the negative consequence of spreading the news that they are sick and worsening their Mazal. Likewise, based on this one should only add a person’s name to Mi Shebeirach for the sick or for Tehillim recital if their illness has been confirmed and diagnosed. By sudden illness it should only be spread after three days unless death is imminent r”l, as stated above. Of course, the intent of spread is to tell the public, however family and close friends may be told right away when there is medical concern. Likewise, based on the above we can understand that once a person has been healed from his illness his name should be removed from the Mi Shebeirach or Tehillim lists for the sake in order not to diminish his Mazal.]

B. Selling one’s illness:[8] [Talmud/Achronim]

One who is sick is able to sell his illness to another individual, and that individual will then take the sickness from him and receive it himself. [This sale is performed by one giving money to another person and him buying the illness in exchange. There was indeed a great man who was once ill and sold his illness to a Gentile, and he became better while the Gentile immediately fell ill.[9]]

C. Redeeming the ill person if he is a firstborn:[10] [Achronim]

If a boy or man is sick, then he should be looked into if he is a firstborn and if he was properly redeemed by a Kohen in the ceremony of Pidyon Haben. If this was not done, or was not done properly, then it is to be [re]done. The five Selaim or the value of the five Selaim is to be given fully to the Kohen as a complete present without intent to receive it back, and this helps the life of the child. There was once a story with a young child who was deathly ill and continually screamed the words “redeem, redeem,” and after inquiring by a sage, they were told that perhaps he is a firstborn and that therefore they should redeem the child in a Pidyon Haben. Indeed, this is what they did and after giving the five Selaim to a Kohen, he lived for another 25 years.[11]

D. Shemira for a sick person:[12] [Talmud/Achronim]

A sick person needs to be guarded from Mazikin [and hence is not to be left alone or go outside alone in the marketplace[13]].

E. How to sit when visiting the ill:[14] [Talmud/Shulchan Aruch]

It is forbidden for the visitor to sit on a higher level than the ill person.[15] Thus, if the ill person is lying on the floor, he may not sit on a bench, chair or bed, and is rather to sit on the floor. If, however, the ill person is on a bed or chair, then one may sit in front of him, and so is the custom. [One should not sit near the head of a sick person being that the divine presence is there. Likewise, one should not sit near his feet being that the angel of death is there. If however the ill person is a complete Tzadik, then one should specifically sit near his feet and not by any other part of his body being that he is surrounded by a divine presence.[16]]

F. Not to tell the sick person to sit down:[17] [Talmud/Shulchan Aruch]

One is not to tell a sick person to sit down, as it implies that he is to sit and remain in his state of mourning or illness. [One may however tell him that he does not need to stand, or other indirect term.[18] The sick person may tell others to sit down.]

G. If an ill person tells you to take something that isn’t in the room:[19] [Achronim]

If an ill person tells you to take something that isn’t in the room, then one should not tell him “Give it to me willingly,” as saying such a thing can cause him to die. Rather, he should tell the ill person that he can’t take it.

H. List of matters which can cause one’s illness to return:[20] [Talmud/Achronim]

The following ten matters can cause one’s illness to return:

  1. Eating ox meat
  2. Eating fatty meat
  3. Eating roasted meat
  4. Eating poultry meat
  5. Eating a roasted egg
  6. A haircut
  7. Shichlayim
  8. Milk
  9. Cheese
  10. Bathing
  11. Some say eating almonds and some say eating squashes.

Igros Kodesh-Writing to the Igros:[21]

The Poskim rule that it is permitted to use Pesukim for the sake of getting advice and direction for a decision that one is deliberating on, and that doing so does not transgress the Nichush prohibition. [So was done throughout the generations of Jewry, and so is recorded in the Gemara and Poskim. Today, this is more formally known as Goral Hagr”a, and was famously used by Rav Aryeh Levine in regard to the burial of the victims of Kefar Etzion. Thus, the idea of writing to the Igros for the sake of direction and advice has Halachic basis, and is not prohibited under Nichush or any other matter.]


Not to look at a crazy person:[22] [Achronim]

One is to avoid staring at the face of a person who is crazy.


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[1] Beir Hagoleh Y.D. 334; Shut Maharam Baruch 1022

[2] Sefer Chassidim 178; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 237:1

[3] Sefer Zechira

[4] See Encyclopedia Hilchatit Refuit 3 Erech “Machalot” Vol. 4 p. 390-425 for a list of all Talmudic illnesses; See “Nichfeh” p. 446-472

[5] Taz 335:1; Nedarim 40a

[6] Bach, brought in Taz 335:1; Nedarim ibid

[7] Michaber Y.D. 335:1; Yerushalmi Peiah end of Chapter 3; Miseches Semachos; See Likkutei Sichos 5:78

The reason: In order not to spread the fact that he is sick and ruin his Mazal. [Taz 335:1; Bach 335]

[8] Sefer Chassidim 445; Kaf Hachaim 116:140

[9] Kaf Hachaim ibid

[10] Kaf Hachaim 116:139; See Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 156

[11] Sefer Chassidim 334; Shemiras Hanefesh 180

[12] M”A 239:7; M”B 239:9; Brachos 54b; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 180

[13] Haghos Yaavetz; Aruch Hashulchan E.H. 64:3

[14] Michaber and Rama 335:3; Shabbos 12b; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 182:1

[15] The reason: As the Shechinah resides on top of the head of an ill person and one may not make himself higher than the Shechinah. [Michaber and Rama ibid]

[16] Zohar Pinchas 329; Aruch Hashulchan 335:7; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 182:2; See Kol Bo 118:3

[17] Michaber 376:2; Moed Katan 27b; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 182:3

[18] Nitei Gavriel 89:5 in name of Nimukei Yosef Moed Katan 27b and Daas Torah 376:2

[19] Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 183

[20] Brachos 57b; Shemiras Hanefesh 113; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 181:1

[21] See Chagiga 15a; Gittin 56a; 68a; Chulin 95b; Rama Y.D. 179:4 “Pesuk Li Pesukecha”; Shach 179:5; Rambam Avodas Koachivim 11:4-5 and Raavad there in fierce attack on the Rambam’s position; Semag L.S. 51; Maharikash in Erech Lechem Y.D. 179:4; Chida Shiyurei Bracha Y.D. 179:6; Chaim Sheol 2:38-41; Toras Menachem 5749 1:309; Sefer Hasichos 5749 2:489 footnote 98; Chikrei Minhagim [Gurary] 106

[22] Alfa Beisa; Shemiras Hanefesh 288; Kaf Hachaim 116:202; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 237:3

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