Eruvin 26

Torah as medicine.

Today’s daf, the last of the second chapter of Tractate Eruvin, features an interesting story about King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah.

Earlier on the page, the rabbis referenced a verse from Kings II as a source for how large a garden or a karpef one can carry within on Shabbat. The verse mentions the prophet Isaiah going out into a courtyard. Now the Gemara wants to know: What was Isaiah doing in that courtyard anyway?

The Gemara answers: Rabba bar bar Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: This teaches that Hezekiah took ill, and Isaiah went and established a Torah academy at his door, so that Torah scholars would sit and occupy themselves with Torah outside his room, the merit of which would help Hezekiah survive.

Hezekiah was the king of Judah. And when he took ill, Isaiah recruited the Torah scholars of the time to come and learn at the door of his bedroom in the hopes it would lead to his recovery. This seems like an odd choice. First, Isaiah was a prophet and he knew that there was a heavenly decree that Hezekiah was going to die. Second, it seems strange to just move a Torah academy to the door of somebody’s bedroom.

But the Gemara disagrees. The text continues:

Based on this, it is derived, with regard to a Torah scholar who took ill, that one establishes an academy at the entrance to his home. The Gemara comments: This, however, is not a proper course of action, as perhaps they will come to provoke Satan against him. Challenging Satan might worsen the health of a sick person rather than improve it.

The Gemara concludes that studying Torah at Hezekiah’s door was the proper course of action. Yet the Gemara also notes that this may not in fact be advisable, as it is seen as tempting fate.

Today, we don’t typically bring a yeshiva to a person’s door when they are ill. But we do learn Torah on their behalf, since the study of Torah has always been thought to have a healing effect. As it says in Pirkei Avot: “Great is Torah for it gives life to those that practice it, in this world, and in the world to come.”

For many of us, the study of Daf Yomi has brought increased Torah into our lives at precisely the moment when many people in the world are in need of extra prayers for healing. May this increase in Torah bring complete healing to all that are in need of it.

Read all of Eruvin 26 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on September 4, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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