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Bais HaVaad on the Parsha, Parshas Va’es’chanan

Risk Management 

Excerpted and adapted from a shiur by Rav Eliezer Gewirtzman  

July 27, 2023


But you should take great care for your souls, for you did not see any likeness on the day Hashem spoke to you at Choreiv from the midst of the fire.

Dvarim 4:15

This pasuk is commonly understood as a mitzvah de’Oreisa to protect our lives and avoid danger. This is based on the Gemara (Brachos 32b) in which a chasid did not interrupt his Shmoneh Esrei to respond to a general’s greeting and was told by the general that he violated this mitzvah and the earlier “hishamer lecha ushmor nafshecha me’od” (Dvarim 4:9). The chasid answered that he would not stop davening to the King of Kings to greet a human king, but the Gemara indicates that these psukim do indeed refer to protecting one’s health. The Maharsha and the Ramban (Dvarim 4:15) note that the psukim, in context, address not forgetting the Torah (4:9) and not worshiping avodah zarah (4:15). The Maharsha therefore says that when the Gemara says they refer to health, it’s only an asmachta.

The Rambam (Rotzeiach 11:4) writes that hishamer lecha is a mitzvas asei to avoid danger, and one who fails to do so violates this asei and the lo sa’aseh of “velo sasim damim beveisecha.” The Minchas Chinuch questions the Rambam’s interpretation in light of the fact that the psukim refer to other matters. He answers (in Kometz Hamincha) that Chazal had a mesorah that these psukim were to be understood this way, as evident from the Gemara (Shvuos 36) that cites hishamer lecha as the source that one may not curse himself, on account of the danger.

The Shulchan Aruch (427:8,10) says that a person must mind his health, and he receives makas mardus if he doesn’t, which implies that the issur is deRabanan. But the Sma and the Levush say such a person violates the issur de’Oreisa of hishamer lecha.[1]

[1] Some poskim say one violates the issur de’Oreisa only if the risk is great.


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