The Best of All Possible Worlds?

Daf 60.

Summary. We recite Shehecheyanu over new clothes, but there is a dispute over whether it is recited over the purchase of a similar garment shortly following the original purchase. Is this dispute recorded to highlight R’Meir’s leniency or R’Yehuda’s stringency?

The gemara also questions which blessings one must recite over immediate misfortune that may have long-term positive consequences, and over a positive event that may have long-term negative consequences.

In the case of illness, is it permissible to seek medical treatment? Answer: Yes.

There is a dispute over what prayer to recite before entering a restroom and after departing from it. The gemara indicates blessings to say upon going to bed, rising, and other daily phenomena.

The gemara asks, “What does it mean that a person is obligated to bless God for the bad just as one blesses God for the good?” Rava says, “this statement is needed only to teach us to accept misfortunes with joy.” R’Akiva says, “A person should always be accustomed to say “whatever the Merciful One does, He does for the best.”

Comment.

In this daf, R’Akiva’s faith is affirmed by an experience that is simulatneously miraculous and petty. He seeks lodging in a city in the midst of his journey and is denied shelter, so he is forced to sleep in a field. He had with him a rooster, a donkey, and a lamp. A cat ate his rooster; wind blew out his lamp; and a lion ate his donkey. Even so, R’Akiva maintained that “Whatever the Merciful One does, He does for the best.” In the morning Akiva learned that the town that refused him shelter had been invaded and captured while he slept in the field. This simplistic reduction of the reward for faith as the brutal punishment of those who inconvenience us is not a worthy “proof” to a people who will suffer far greater hardship than failure to find a bed.

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