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GENESIS 48:1 – JACOB WAS ILL?

“After these events, someone said to Yosef: Behold your father is ill…(Genesis 48:1).

According to the Talmud (Baba Metzia 87a) until Jacob, there was no illness. Then Jacob prayed that people get ill before passing away and illness came into being. Prior to Jacob’s prayer, people had no prior intimation that their life was coming to an end. Now they would have a chance to get their house in order. Our sages teach that previously, people would just sneeze and their soul would leave their body. This is the origin of the custom to bless people with long life when they sneeze.

However, when G-d appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1) Rashi explains that this was to visit the sick after his circumcision. So apparently, people were sick before Jacob. Sefer Itturei Torah answers that prior to Jacob, there were no terminal illnesses, but people did get wounded. Abraham’s recuperation was from the wound of his circumcision, not from any disease.


By Rabbi Michael Skobac

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