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In Bava Batra 16b Rava two verses for Iyov are compared

(איוב לד, לה) [איוב] לא בדעת ידבר ודבריו לא בהשכל (וכתיב (איוב מב, ז) כי לא דברתם אלי נכונה כעבדי איוב)

On the one hand, the text states: “Job has spoken without knowledge, and his words were without wisdom” (Job 34:35). But on the other hand, it is written with regard to Job’s friends: “You have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, like my servant Job” (Job 42:8).

To resolve the seeming contradiction Rava explains:

אמר רבא מכאן שאין אדם נתפס בשעת צערו

Rava said: From here it may be inferred that a person is not held responsible for what he says when he is in distress

Meaning that Elihu's statement that Iyov's words are without knowledge is technically correct, but Iyov is not held responsible for his mistaken speech because he spoke while he was suffering.

I would like to understand this statement in light of the premise of the book of Iyov overall. In the first two chapters the Satan has a conversation with God where he posits that the reason Iyov serves God is because Iyov is protected and essentially everything is well with him and his possessions. Remove that, argues the Satan, and Iyov will curse (written euphemistically as 'bless' in the pasuk) God to his face. To test this theory the Satan is given permission by God to cause the loss of all of Iyov's possessions and to physically afflict Iyov. But, given Rava's statement that a person is not held responsible for statements made while suffering, I cannot understand how Satan's test makes sense. If Iyov were to curse God as Satan suggests he would, wouldn't that curse be considered words said while in pain and therefore not be held against Iyov?


I am aware that some commentators explain "אין אדם נתפס בשעת צערו" to mean that a person is not punished for antinomian statements as opposed to those statements being considered as if they were not said at all. I do not find this reading compelling from the context of the Gemarah and the pesukim and will not accept this explanation as the correct answer

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There's a difference between saying something foolish and outright blaspheming. Also, as per Rav Dessler's doctrine of nekudath habechira (see Michtav Me’Eliyahu - Kuntrus HaBechira) the goalposts may move - i.e. one is still accountable for one's choices but the expectations (and responsibility) are lowered by more trying circumstances.

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  • the things Iyov says would go beyond foolishness, including saying that God is not just, there is no resurrection of the dead etc. Are you saying the test of Satan was specifically and only to see if Iyov would say the exact phrase "Cursed is G-d"(chalilah) or something similar? Doesn't the 'lowering of expectations' ruin the Satan's argument by definition? – rikitikitembo Jan 21 at 17:06
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More background on the conversation between Hashem and the Sotton is useful to understand this.

Hashem had said that Iyov was a tremendous Tzadik. The Sotton responded that he really wasn't such a Tzadik, he just has everything going for him. Were he to find himself in difficult straits he would no longer be such a Tzadik. The Sotton was correct about that. Iyov did not remain the great Tzadik he had once been in face of tremendous pain and adversity.

OTOH he also is not to be considered a bad person for the way he responded due to the pain that led him to do so.

It is often said that the difference between Gadol and a regular person is that (1)the more you get to get to know a gadol the more you see their virtues, the more you see a regular person the more you realize their faults (2) more relevant to here, a gadol is someone who remains a gadol no matter where you meet them, no matter what situation behind their control they find themselves in, whether they are surrounded by followers or imprisoned in Siberia they still act with gadlus.

That was the test Iyov had. Had he not reacted the way he did would have been on par with the Avos. Now that he did his behavior is understandable in light of the pain he was in

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  • Can you cite a source that Iyov did not remain a great Tzadik after his travails? In pasuk 42:7 God explicitly calls Iyov his servant, exactly as he did (twice) before Iyov began speaking with his visitors. – rikitikitembo Jan 21 at 17:31
  • He was a great Tzadik after his travails. It was during them that he wasn't. The comments that he made were not the comments of a great Tzadik. Rava who said you learn from Iyov that a person is not punished for antinomian statements also said in regard to the comments themselves that dust should be put in the mouth of Iyov, Iyov denied the resurrection of the dead, etc. – Schmerel Jan 21 at 17:46
  • But God said what Iyov said was correct (see previously cited pasuk). – rikitikitembo Jan 21 at 18:37
  • Hashem also criticized some of what Iyov said. He was only correct in the context of his friends being wrong for what they said to him (at the time-not necessarily for the sentiment they expressed). The Shulchan Orech gives them as an example of Onas Devorim. Since they were not in pain they WERE being held accountable for what they said. Iyov, on the other hand, was not. Hashem only took into account the correct things he said (see Rabainu Gershon on the Gemorah) – Schmerel Jan 21 at 18:55

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