Died by sneezing

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  • #2042375
    yehudis21
    Participant

    I just heard a shiur on the parsha in which the Rabbi quoted a midrash that said that before Yakov, people didn’t get sick before death, they just suddenly sneezed and died. And that Yakov asked Hashem to let people get sick before death so they know when it’s coming.

    Can this be… medically accurate? I have a feeling it’s not literal, but rather an allegory of some sort.

    #2042423
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The Chezkuni on Breishis (48,1) says that before Yaakov Avinu there was no illness. Wherever a person was, he would sneeze and then passed away. Yaakov Avinu prayed for illness to prepare for one’s passing.
    The Magen Avraham says that when one sneezes, he should say ‘לשועתך קויתי ה, I hope for Your help and then the people say, to your health. Labriuth, Gesuntheit, or Naz Dravye in Russian or Polish as a thanks for being alive.

    #2042427
    ujm
    Participant

    It’s literal. It was “medically accurate” before the time of Yaakov Avinu.

    #2042438
    Novelty
    Participant

    Yehudis, please refer to Bereishis (Genesis) chapter 2 verse 7.

    “…and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.”

    The nose is the area of the body that Hashem use to send the breath of life into man. It makes absolute sense that it is the area from which life departs. A sneeze seems to be the most natural form of death, methinks.

    However, one note: Do bear in mind that Midrashim cannot be always taken literally. They are generally allegorical, and one must learn it from someone else who has already learned it, knowing how to decode it.

    #2042439
    2scents
    Participant

    When one sneezes it causes an increase to the intrathoracic pressure that may decrease cardiac output and decrease coronary circulation for a very short while.

    So while we do not know the mechanism that caused people to die from a sneeze (Sternutation), it can probably be explained.

    However, in general this is meant to be understood that people didn’t have diseases or medical conditions that progressed over time, rather they died much quicker. So maybe the sneezing was not meant to be literal rather as an expression, or maybe it is literal.

    #2042441
    ☕️coffee addict
    Participant

    “The Magen Avraham says that when one sneezes, he should say ‘לשועתך קויתי ה, I hope for Your help and then the people say, to your health. Labriuth, Gesuntheit, or Naz Dravye in Russian or Polish as a thanks for being alive.“

    It sad I don’t see many people saying it anymore ☹️

    #2042451
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    I usually say it.

    #2042454
    yehudis21
    Participant

    The problems I have are:

    1) That’s not the way things work in the natural world as we know it. And Hashem generally works within the realms of nature.
    2) If Hashem changed that nature, we should have historical evidence of such a radical change form other cultures.
    3) People sometimes do not get sick before they die; they die suddenly. Even great people.
    4) People definitely had physical weaknesses when they got older, even before Yakov’s time. (Yitzchak became blind, as an example)
    5) There’s a concept in Pirkie Avos about doing teshuva one day before your death, which the commentaries expound upon to mean that one should do teshuva every day, since one doesn’t know their day of death. This seems a direct contradiction to what Yakov was trying to accomplish.

    There are certainly more issues than these, but this should suffice for now.

    #2042516
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    Even when getting sick, sometimes people pass away suddenly, so everyday we still must do teshuva. We should always see it as this is our last day and a reprieve was given to us by returning the day to us.

    #2042523

    > suddenly sneezed and died
    speaking of peshat:

    I was thinking about this for some time already. It sounded strange some time ago – this happens but not that often … Now, the pandemic clarified this of course … Also, note that viruses and bacteria change quickly. Some that were deadly several centuries ago, became not deadly later, or deadly only to new population (like American Indians) so it is well possible that there were something going around at that time that routinely caused a lot of deaths

    #2042547
    ujm
    Participant

    Changes of nature that occurred during Yaakov Avinu’s lifetime aren’t documented by contemporary historian’s accounts. Another example is that there was kishuf (“magic”) by Pharoh’s time (which is after Yaakov Avinu’s time) and there was magic still in the world in much later times of world history, yet professional historians are in denial over these (and many other) facts.

    #2042558
    HaLeiVi
    Participant

    Why do you think they died fron sneezing? The point of the Medrash is that there was no prior sickness warning the person that his time is nearing.

    Rather than dying from sneezing, they sneezed from dying.

    #2042562
    HaLeiVi
    Participant

    1) That’s not the way things work in the natural world as we know it. And Hashem generally works within the realms of nature.

    Whatever happens on a constant basis is nature. This was obviously not a small sneeze, but a sneeze-like sound of the wind leaving the lungs.

    2) If Hashem changed that nature, we should have historical evidence of such a radical change form other cultures.

    How do you know it was radical? There always existed a concept of sickness, and people got weaker as they grew older.

    Nor is there reason to think we have such a good understanding of what went on before the Avos.

    3) People sometimes do not get sick before they die; they die suddenly. Even great people.

    Right. There was no promise that every single person will know when it’s time to go. Even great people get treated harshly, we all know.

    4) People definitely had physical weaknesses when they got older, even before Yakov’s time. (Yitzchak became blind, as an example)

    Yes. They got predictably weaker and weaker as they grew older. This has nothing to do with the dying sickness.

    5) There’s a concept in Pirkie Avos about doing teshuva one day before your death, which the commentaries expound upon to mean that one should do teshuva every day, since one doesn’t know their day of death. This seems a direct contradiction to what Yakov was trying to accomplish.

    Are you trying to make the case that people don’t get sick before they die? People don’t know when they will get sick, and when they are sick they don’t know for a fact which sickness will be the last, and even if they know that they don’t know the day.

    And, as you mentioned, not everyone is lucky enough to get a warning.

    #2042576
    ujm
    Participant

    Other aspects of nature that changed are there used to be extremely tall people, people at one time could live hundreds of years, etc. Historians, archaeologists and all the secular professionals deny these facts.

    #2042627
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The above Magen Avraham says that the order is after sneezing that first the one hearing it says asuse, to your health then he answers baruch tihyeh, bless be you and after that he says the pasuk to himself. As first he has to pray for others to get answered first.
    מגן אברהם סימן רל ס”ק ו
    ‘מי שמתעטש וחבירו א”ל אסותא יאמר לו ברוך תהיה ואח”כ יאמר לישועתך קויתי ה
    דהמתפלל על חבירו הוא נענ’ תחלה יש”ש ב”ק פ”ח סי’ ס”ד

    #2042682
    shlucha22
    Participant

    I dont have a source but i once heard that because they never got sick in those days, and they had weak immune system, even a simple sneeze caused them to die.

    #2042693
    HaLeiVi
    Participant

    @shlucha22, a sneeze doesn’t require an immune system. You might mean to say that a light cold was able to take then down. But that would mean that they actually got sick.

    #2042695
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    They say that people too protected from illness are more apt to get sick as the immune system is not built up to fight it.

    #2042698
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    shlucha22, you have the best answer.

    #2042700

    shlucha > they had weak immune system, even a simple sneeze caused them to die.

    sounds plausibly. don’t you see it now? if you have a weak immune system (or just towards particular patogen), then you get seriously sick and soon after someone sneezes (nose is irritated), the lungs will be affected too.

    and weak immune system (comparing to now) may be due to lower travel and community mixing, and also probably less crumbing people in the same room. Urban life changed a lot. For example, 19th century brought sickness from spoiled milk that was transported from villages to cities until pasteurization was instituted (which was protested by non-believers and as much as vaccines now).

    #2042736
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    A sneeze might need an immune system as bacteria is being released and infect on the way out.

    #2042726
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    As stated above the neshama was blown in through the nose, so it would be blown out through the nose.

    #2042762
    HaLeiVi
    Participant

    A sneeze might need an immune system as bacteria is being released and infect on the way out.

    So, while bacteria is inside, no problem. It comes out — instant death!

    ____

    As stated above the neshama was blown in through the nose, so it would be blown out through the nose.

    If you put a balloon on a dying man’s nose, the Neshama will go into the balloon? Will it become alive and smile?

    This reminds me of the discussion Rebbe Yehoshua had with the elders of Athens.

    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by HaLeiVi.
    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by HaLeiVi.
    #2042779
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    Maybe not all comes out.

    #2042887
    Pekak
    Participant

    @yehudis21

    The natural world is ever changing. Before the mabul there were no seasons as we know them today. See the Seforno in Parshas Noach.

    Other cultures and their history mean absolutely nothing.

    #2042950
    Press2
    Participant

    The gemara in Bava Metzi’a 87a writes that until Yaakov nobody got sick before they died not sure if they died by sneezing though

    #2043036
    HaLeiVi
    Participant

    not sure if they died by sneezing though

    That’s from Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer.

    But again, the point is that they died suddenly–with just a sneeze, not that people would randomly die as soon as they sneezed. In fact, that is the opposite of the main intention. The Gemara and Medrash are describing a world in which people remained healthy, and it is being taken to mean that people got sick easily.

    #2043039
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The Chezkuni mentioned above is quoted from Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer 51.

    #2043071
    Shimon Nodel
    Participant

    Scientifically, it actually makes perfect sense.
    The further you go back in time, pathogens and viruses were less and less frequent among people. They also had cures that were lost and forgotten over time.

    #2043110
    HaLeiVi
    Participant

    pathogens and viruses were less and less frequent among people

    And again, you are missing the point. The Medrash is saying that they did not get sick, and you are trying to explain how they got sick.

    #2043518
    yehudis21
    Participant

    Thanks, HaLeivi. Good solid explanations there.

    I still think it’s likely that people got sick, just perhaps not life-threatening illnesses, which does make sense on a general level. Again, this is Yakov we’re talking about, so I think it’s entirely possible this whole discussion only relates to those on a high enough level. And even then, it’s not always in the cards, as we know there are plenty of great people who die suddenly, today.

    This whole connection of the neshama being “blown in through the nose”… This is obviously anthropomorphic, as the neshama isn’t a tangible thing that can be blown through anything. But the logic behind it holds.

    Pekak- Interesting. So before the mabul, there were no seasonal changes on earth? Or they were somehow different? Please enlighten me on this, because from what little I understand, life on earth literally couldn’t exist without the seasons’ changes due to earth’s tilted axis.

    #2043590

    When we try to imagine lifestyles and environment changing over time, we often fail to imagine simple things. Consider, for example, Native Americans who lived a pre-mabul lifestyle and had seemingly no viruses and no immunity to them (leading to a disaster when they encountered those).

    Some explain that it is partly due to lack of domesticated animals and, thus, lack of viruses jumping between animals and people. If pre-mabul generations were vegetarians, then the same would apply. I may be taking these midrashim too literally, but it is interesting to see how life conditions can change easily.

    #2044135
    Novelty
    Participant

    Yehudis,

    I disagree with your premise about the neshama. Just because it has neither form nor physical matter doesn’t mean its anthropomorphic. It is a spiritual substance, which has a finer type of matter that we cannot perceive.

    You can’t get away from the pshat when it says that Hashem blew in the neshama through the nose.

    #2044182
    HaLeiVi
    Participant

    Right. You can’t get away from the Pshat — that He breathed life into him.

    As for what we call a Neshama, it is not physical. Not made from any type of physical-dimension bound substance. If you even apply the term substance to a Neshama, that would be a borrowed phrase to refer to something else, which is harder to describe.

    The only way you can describe a “Neshama” being blown through the nose, it’s in the sense that it was assigned to the person, and the affect of its presence was noticed instantly in the nose. This is analogous to what it means when it says that Hashem came someplace.

    #2044188
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The Targum says that that the ability of speech was blown into him. Maybe the neshama gives the ability of speech.

    #2044233
    yehudis21
    Participant

    Thank you, HaLeivi.
    Too many people these days aren’t looking closely enough at the actual words and just take what they learned in second grade for granted.

    #2047158
    amom
    Participant

    Yehudis-
    Hashem tilted the axis after the mabul.

    #2047304

    > Hashem tilted the axis after the mabul.

    This can be tested by looking whether older trees have rings, as rings come from seasons.

    #2047358
    ☕️coffee addict
    Participant

    “Maybe the neshama gives the ability of speech.“

    How do you have mutes? (Not talking about deaf mutes)

    #2047423
    Pekak
    Participant

    @Always_Ask_Questions

    That helps for after the mabul.


    @coffee
    addict

    The neshama gives the ability to speak, not necessarily a guarantee.

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