Questions and Suggested Answers
Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz
Compare Rashi’s comment on verse 12: “if he shall offer it as a thanksgiving”, cited above, with Psalm 107. Note the different order of the four instances of the hagomel blessing in the Psalm and in Rashi:
After recovery from illness
Rashi Vayikra 7:12:
After recovery from illness (Lit., “he who recovered etc.”)
(a) Can you account for the change of order in Rashi?
Rashi adopted this order because it lists the life threatening situations in descending degrees of danger. Sea voyagers trapped in a raging storm are more helpless than desert travellers who can more easily equip themselves prior to their journey to ward off danger. In the desert they might even reach an oasis. The fate of prisoners might be ameliorated by pleas, bribes and pressure brought by relatives and influential friends. They might even attempt to escape. The sick individual is the object of dedicated care by doctors, family and friends.
In all the above it is God’s providence which will ultimately determine the outcome.
A point of interest: Rashi’s order is taken from a Talmud manuscript which provides a different listing from the Talmud text (Brachot 54B) that is in our printed Vilna Talmud (See Rabbi Chavel’s edition of Rashi p.337 note 54).
(b) Why are the first three in the plural and the last one in singular in Rashi?
When an individual is beset by illness, he encounters his situation primarily as an individual. He might be in a hospital where other patients also suffer the same illness, yet each patient weathers the predicament alone. Some get better, some worse, some succumb. Each patient is preoccupied with his/her own situation. Being gravely ill is a very lonely experience. In the other three situations listed in Psalm 107, the others involved provide moral support to the individual. Therefore the plural form is used in these cases. With illness, the singular form is used because the patient is essentially
alone in battling the illness.
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem