- Intermediaries to G-d
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- I had a question regarding your article on Rabbis
Blessings. If that is the true idea, (that people have no powers)
what is the meaning behind the gemora in Baba Basra 116a that if a
person has a sick person in his house he should go to a chacham and
ask him to pray for the choleh (invalid)? I thought there are no
intermediaries. Additionally, the concept of seeking a wise man to
assist a sick person doesn't seem to fit the concept of the bracha as
explained in the article.
- I would first define the use of this term
"intermediaries". This term I believe refers to one who
directs his prayer to one other than G-d. In distinction, one who
approaches another to beseech G-d, as not an act of using an
intermediary to reach G-d. Here, one is merely asking another person
to do an act. He is not praying to a person, or another besides G-d,
and hence, no error has occurred.
- To return to your comments, you are correct. There are two distinct
ideas reflected by the two gemoras. The article was addressing the
accepted notion that people can make changes in nature independent of
G-d's intervention. Conversely, the case with your quoted gemora deals
with a different topic, the concept of seeking a wise man to assist
the sick. I will explain the difference.
- Regarding the former, we see that Moses was involved somehow in
miracles. However, Moses prayed to G-d and was not effectuating
natural change independent of G-d. Saadia Gaon states this in his
book, "Beliefs and Opinions". All true philosophers adhere
to this concept that G-d alone has power over nature.
- Regarding the gemora about seeking a wise man to help the sick, you
are correct. There aren't intermediaries. Judaism does not hold of the
idea of praying to anyone beside G-d, or using an intermediary to
reach G-d. But we do see instances where a person besides the
individual in need is sought out to beseech G-d, as in your quoted
gemora, and also in connection with Miriam, when smitten with leprosy.
- The question is, why does the gemora support this? Shouldn't the ill
person be the one praying?
- In the case of when Miriam received leprosy for speaking against her
brother Moses, again, another (namely Moses) is approached to
intercede on her behalf. Why didn't Miriam, or Aaron approach G-d
directly to pray for Miriam's cure? From the fact that Moses prayed
for Miriam, we see there was a correct concept guiding him. What is
this concept? Additionally, why does the gemora in Baba Basra state
that a "chacham", a "wise man" should be
consulted, as opposed to a tzaddik?
- The reason I believe a chacham is required - and not a tzaddik - is
that only a wise man is able to identify a problem, namely, why G-d
had brought this person close to death. A tzaddik is not necessarily a
chacham, so he is not able to identify the problem. It is evident that
some sin had brought this illness upon the person, and as of yet, the
sickly individual could not discover his wrongdoing, and therefore
remained sick. Job as well remained in his state of physical distress
until Elihu informed him of his error. It was this new concept which
raised Job to a level on which G-d could now relate to him and heal
- What is crucial, is that the chacham will be able to discuss matters
with the sick person, discern what the person's flaw is, and
communicate his error to him. This newly gained knowledge about
himself will raise him to the level where G-d will intercede to remove
the illness. This will be his real shield against his current ill
fate. As the gemora states, "it is not the snake who kills, but
the sin". Additionally, the chacham's request for mercy from G-d
is more likely to be heeded, as now, the chacham has communicated the
error to the invalid, and bases his prayer on this.
- It should be cited equally that the Meharsha holds that a wise man
actually prays for the atonement for the invalid's sin, and G-d
removes the decree of death on the invalid.
- But where do we see that Miriam gained new knowledge to raise her
level and act as a cure? We see that G-d had admonished both Miriam
and Aaron, and informed them of their mistake regarding their level of
prophecy. But although this was corrected, G-d saw that Miriam was
still in need of leprosy to diminish her self overestimation. I am
certain that G-d's words of admonition were heard well by Miriam, as
G-d would not have stated them if they would be useless, especially to
one as perfected as she. Moses' involvement then becomes the question.
If Miriam had what she needed (namely, new insight into herself) to
repent, what was Moses prayer adding?
- There are a few questions we still need further attention in the
case of Miriam:
- 1) If G-d said that "His anger burned against both Miriam and
Aaron", why doesn't the passage indicate that Aaron was equally
smitten with leprosy? The commentators say Aaron had been smitten as
well, but the question is why the Torah conceals this.
- 2) Why didn't Aaron pray instead of asking Moshe to pray?
- 3) Interesting, passage 10 says that "and the cloud removed
from the tent, Miriam was as leprous as snow". Why then does the
passage need to tell us that "Aaron then turned to Miriam, and
(he saw) that she was leprous"? What is this adding? The passage
already told us her state. What it must be adding then is not
information about her state, but information about Aaron.
- 4) Why should Miriam be healed? Isn't t'shuva, (repentance) needed?
- I believe t'shuva was being effectuated by Miriam's enduring her
state as a leper. The Or HaChaim states that Aaron's
"turning" is to be understood as turning "from his own
state of leprosy", as he was healed as soon as the cloud lifted,
whereas Miriam remained a leper longer. But this area regarding
Miriam's and Aaron's sin needs to be further clarified.