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I was recently reading a controversial article on The Lakewood Scoop claiming that Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a punishment for the fact that we expelled anti-vaxxers from our Yeshivos and Mosdos Hachinuch. The author invokes the classical dictum that "Hashem punishes Midah Keneged Midah" and draws a parallel between our treatment of anti-vaxxers and the troubles we are suffering from Coronavirus.

Without dwelling on the controversial nature of the article, I wanted to know - are there clear and reliable sources from the Torah/Talmud to support the claim that Hashem punishes Midah Keneged Midah - specifically when dealing with an entire Tzibur?

In this question the OP contemplates the distinction between מידה כנגד מידה and במידה שאדם מודד בה מודדין לו. My question is different.

What are actual examples of punishments where Chazal invoked this dictum to explain the punishment?

Additionally, I see a similar question with the accepted answer stating that there are other reasons why an individual might be punished (and one cannot necessarily draw the conclusion that the punishment is due to a previous - related sin)

My question is: Does this also apply when the entire Tzibur (public) is punished at the same time (i.e, like at the time of a Magaifah)?

Please reference your answers with citation and reliable sources.

Thanks

  • The incident with the meraglim comes to mind. – robev May 27 at 20:47
  • Keeping shmitta? – Double AA May 27 at 20:57
  • The mitzrim drowning in the sea for throwing the babies in the river? – Asher May 27 at 22:01
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    Can we remove the link to that article from the post? It's not necessary and is pretty infuriating... – robev May 27 at 23:29
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+100

As others have states the incidence with the Mitzriyim drowning in the sea for throwing Jewish babies into the water and the incidence of the Meraglim complaining about Eretz Yisrael and not being allowed to enter E.Y come to mind. In both cases, an entire generation was punished Midah K'neged Midah. It is also brought down that the Ten Makkos were middah keneged middah for the pain and suffering the *Mitzrim * caused Bnei Yisroel.

However, I believe it is important to distinguish between the punishment of the meraglim and the punishment of Mitzrayim.

Why does G-d punish Midah KeNeged Midah? There are two reasons. One is due to the חֶסֶד (kindness) of Hashem - so that the individual (or tzibur) is aware of his misconduct and knows there is what to rectify. Another reason is that the very act of sinning creates a Malach (angel) that punishes the person. Just as in the laws of nature, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In the spiritual world, a bad deed creates a 'force' that is equal (i.e, similar to) the bad deed committed.

Why two types of punishments? Because after all, there are two types of sinners. One type of sinner knows he is doing the wrong thing and does it anyway (l'hachis). The other type of sinner believes he is doing the right thing (he sins L'shem Shamayim). For the first type of sinner, G-d does not need to punish Midah K’neged Midah in order to awaken him to the fact that his actions are unjust. He knows that better than anyone. In this case, Midah K’neged Midah is simply the natural result of transgressing the word of G-d. Just as in the natural world, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Every bad action creates a force in nature - which punishes the person. Naturally, the force created takes upon itself a similar צורה (Tzurah) to the sin that was committed. For the second type of sinner, G-d punishes Midah K’neged Midah so that he knows he transgressed G-ds will. Once he is made aware of this fact, he is likely to do תשובה‎ (repent) without further intervention.

In the case of the Mitzriyim, the purpose of the punishment was not to get them to do תשובה‎. The punishment itself was the goal and the purpose. However, as it relates to Klal Yisroel the punishment is actually an act of kindness as it awakens them to became aware of their misdeeds and become better people.

Regarding the parallel between our treatment of anti-vaxxers and covid-19, The Lakewood Scoop is not the first (or last) one to draw this conclusion.

R’ Chaim Kanievsky Shlit'a has famously stated that covid-19 is a punishment for excessive Lashon Harah. Just as one who speaks Lashon Harah must be isolated (Badad Yaishaiv) from his friends so too we were isolated from our social circle during covid-19. I believe the Chofetz Chaim says the reason a metzora must sit in isolation is because he caused others to avoid the person he spoke negatively about.

In a lecture to the Orthodox community in Cincinnati, Ohio, Rabbi Brog discussed the subject of Midah K'neged Midah in depth and how each and every facet of covid-19 was a direct punishment for the harsh and cruel way we treated anti-vaxxers.

He quoted the great Mashgiach of our time Rabbi Dan Segal Shlit'a as saying that covid-19 was a punishment for the way we treated anti-vaxxers.

He also quoted the grand Rosh Yeshiva of the preeminent and largest Yeshiva in the world (Bais Medrash Govoha) who echoed this sentiment.


The User @The GRAPKE incorrectly stated that "Bar Kamtza "felt better" after his humiliation had been redressed by the destruction of the beis ha'mikdash" and therefore Hashem allowed him to revenge his shame.

Nowhere in the Gemara or חז״ל is this "feeling better" mentioned as a prerequisite to receive punishment for shaming or humiliating someone else. This idea was taken out of @The GRAPKE back pocket. All the Gemara says is that בושה (humiliating someone) is so destructively powerful that it can even cause the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

In accordance with what has been postulated above it would make sense that Hashem punishes Midah K’neged Midah precisely when the individual or public is unaware that they committed a sin. For if the individual is aware that his actions were wrong, why would he need special divine intervention to inform him of such? Divine intervention is required only when the sinner (or sinners) believe they haven’t sinned or even worse, that they are doing the ‘right’ thing.

@The GRAPKE makes an erroneous assumption:

In the case of Coronavirus, since the reason for any action against the anti-vaxxers was in order to protect the community from disease, it is not possible to say that a punishment should occur middah ke'neged middah for these actions (with regards to the second notion of middah ke'neged middah), because this treatment was one born of concern and not of selfish harshness. Simply put, it is not possible that we should say that Hashem should punish someone or a tzibbur for doing a mitzvah.

The writer of the letter actually addresses this issue:

The Netziv observes that we find a great deal of shefichas damim at the time of the second Beis HaMikdash. Why then does the Gemara say that there was no shefichas damim? The Netziv provides a frightening answer. During בית שני, people didn’t kill because they were evil. They killed only in the name of good and with holy intentions. They believed (just like we do) that those who they killed deserved it because they were not performing the Mitzvos properly. The Netziv explains that the people themselves were unaware that they committed a crime as it was righteous and justified in their minds.

What is the barometer for unjustified hatred? Examining our own behavior is the only way to know whether we are guilty of double standards. We say that we are unwilling to expose ourselves to a certain level of risk but do we take similar risks in our everyday lives? Do we take risks that are far, far greater than the risk we’re being exposed to? Do we take those risks even when not absolutely necessary? If the risk of a vaccinated child being exposed to an unvaccinated child was even close to the risk of driving or many of the other risks we take in our lives, I wouldn’t voice my dissatisfaction with the current matzav. In reality, we are talking about a risk that is AT MOST 1/450th of the risks we take every day.

Where does this discrimination come from if not hate?

Imagine the government imposing strict sanctions against any Jewish religious gathering (i.e, maximum 2 people could join a indoor minyan) while allowing churches and mosques to gather freely without any restriction? Of course, this would be the epitome of hypocrisy. It's the same thing in this case. We either expose our self to a certain level of risk or we don't. We can't expose ourselves to a level of risk that is 450 times greater than the risk of being around an unvaccinated child and then claim we are embarrassing them "L'shem Shamayim".

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  • See Shaarei Kedushah (1.2) who says that when a person sins, a destructive angel is created, which Hashem is mepharnes, instead of allowing this angel to draw its sustenance from the person who created it. Similarly, if one person sins against another, then the person who was sinned against should wear that hurt and not take revenge from the person who sinned, which would make him feel better. Also see Mesillas Yesharim, Mesilas Yesharim, pratei hanekius, who writes, “Revenge is sweeter than honey. It is evident from these sources that taking revenge, "makes the person feel better." – The GRAPKE Sep 29 at 5:54
  • @TheGRAPKE None of the sources you cited make me question the simple and obvious interpretation of the Gemara. As I stated in my answer, the only thing the Gemara says is that the destructive power of humiliating someone else is such that it caused the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. Nowhere does the Gemara mention the idea of "feeling better". G-d took revenge for the humiliation of בר קמצא and used him as the messenger. I don't see anything in the Mesillas Yesharim that implies a different interpretation of the Gemara. – Arkin Sep 29 at 6:24
  • @TheGRAPKE Additionally, the 'sweetness' discussed by the Mesillas Yesharim is not the result of being happy that someone else was punished or harmed. It is the result of seeing the Yad Hashem. It is the result of experiencing Yesh Din v'Yesh Dayan. It is the result of feeling that there's someone looking after you, even as everyone neglected or forsaken you. The "good feeling" of knowing that the Kol Yachol has one's back, applies to the modern version of Kamtza Bar Kamtza too. – Arkin Sep 29 at 6:27
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    @Arkin You make a number of claims in the names of Rabbis Brog, Segal and the Rosh Yeshiva of BMG without citing any sources. Do you have a link to the lecture so that we can verify that they in fact said these things? How do we know you did not misinterpret what they said? – Alan Cook Sep 29 at 17:45
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    @AlanCook Sure, I apologize for omitting the reference to the lecture. I downloaded it from this link: bit.ly/RabbiBrog Note: The download is free but requires an email address to receive the files. – Arkin Sep 29 at 20:15
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As robev points out in the comments the incident with the meraglim is a case where an entire generation was punished מדה כנגד מדה.

Sources:

Bamidbar 14:34:

בְּמִסְפַּ֨ר הַיָּמִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־תַּרְתֶּ֣ם אֶת־הָאָרֶץ֮ אַרְבָּעִ֣ים יוֹם֒ י֣וֹם לַשָּׁנָ֞ה י֣וֹם לַשָּׁנָ֗ה תִּשְׂאוּ֙ אֶת־עֲוֺנֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם אַרְבָּעִ֖ים שָׁנָ֑ה וִֽידַעְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־תְּנוּאָתִֽי׃

Chizkuni on that verse: `

וידעתם את תנואתי אמרתם שכוונתי להפילכם בחרב כדי שלא להביא דברי שאמרתי לפניכם להכניס אתכם לארץ עכשיו תבחינו ותכירו אותה תנואה שחשבתם עלי מדה כנגד מדה.

The Jewish people of that generation were not let into the Holy Land due to their complaints of not wanting to go into the Holy land--מדה כנגד מידה.

There are many other examples, ex. Egyptians tried to drown the Jewish newborns they got drowned in the red sea, or the generation of Noach sinned with the heat of forbidden relations and they were burned with scalding waters. [Rosh Hashanah 12a] I don't see any difference between מדה כנגד מדה of an individual as opposed to a community; מכ"מ is the way Hashem runs the world and it doesn't seem like there are any exceptions.

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A lot of good examples have been brought already but I am reminded of something in Bava Basra 9a where it writes:

אמר להו רבא לבני מחוזא במטותא מנייכו עושו בהדי הדדי כי היכי דליהוי לכו שלמא במלכותא וא"ר אלעזר בזמן שבהמ"ק קיים אדם שוקל שקלו ומתכפר לו עכשיו שאין בהמ"ק קיים אם עושין צדקה מוטב ואם לאו באין עובדי כוכבים ונוטלין בזרוע ואעפ"כ נחשב להן לצדקה שנאמר (ישעיהו ס, יז) ונוגשיך צדקה

Rava said to the people of Meḥoza: I beg of you, strive with each other to perform acts of charity and righteousness, so that you will live in peace with the government, since if you do not act charitably toward each other, you will end up paying fines to the government. And Rabbi Elazar says: When the Temple is standing, a person contributes his shekel for the Temple service and achieves atonement for his sins. Now that the Temple no longer stands, if people act charitably, it will be well for them; but if not, the nations of the world will come and take their money by force. The Gemara comments: And even so, the money taken from them by force is credited to them as if they had freely given charity, as it is stated: “And I will make your oppressors charity” (Isaiah 60:17).(Sefaria translation and notation)

So we see here also that the people of Mechoza were told to act on an individual level in a charitable way and failure to do so would effect them collectively by the government imposing fines. Similarly, failure to give tzedaka in an age devoid of the Beis Hamikdash can result in the nations of the world coming and taking our money from us as a collective.

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...agreed with the sources brought by @user6781.

Further, the baalei mussar (mussar masters) explain that middah keneged middah is a chesed (kindness) of Hashem, which allows people / person to determine the manner in which they have sinned, in order so that they can do teshuvah. There seems no reason that this kindness should only apply to individuals and not to a community.

As a more recent example, I heard from Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon that the Chafetz Chaim said that the Wall Street Crash (that led to the Second World War) was a punishment for people reading newspapers that promulgated apikorsus (i.e. the apikorsus of cause and effect).

Slightly related, the Imrei Emes said that the holocaust did not on the whole affect the Sephardic community because they do not talk in shul. Although Reb Matisyahu's interpretation of that statement is not that the holocaust came because people talked in shul, but rather that since people talked in shul, they had desecrated their own shuls and therefore their prayers to be saved became ineffectual. (So this is not exactly the same case as the current discussion.)

More generally (along these lines), the gemara says in Bava Metzia (30a)

https://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%91%D7%91%D7%90_%D7%9E%D7%A6%D7%99%D7%A2%D7%90_%D7%9C_%D7%91

דאמר ר' יוחנן לא חרבה ירושלים אלא על שדנו בה דין תורה אלא דיני דמגיזתא לדיינו אלא אימא שהעמידו דיניהם על דין תורה ולא עבדו לפנים משורת הדין

Rabbi Yochanan said, "Yerushalayim was destroyed because.. they were insistent on standing on their rights according to the strict law of the Torah."

The explanation of this gemara (which contradicts others that state that Yerushalayim was destroyed because of baseless hatred) would seem to be along the lines of Reb Matisyahu's explanation above, i.e. according to the allegorical notion of

https://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%A0%D7%94_%D7%A1%D7%95%D7%98%D7%94_%D7%90_%D7%96

בַּמִּדָּה שֶׁאָדָם מוֹדֵד, בָּהּ מוֹדְדִין לוֹ

In the measure that a person measures to others, is reward/punishment delivered to that person.

This means to say that Yerushalayim was not destroyed because the people were insistent on their strict rights, but rather that when Hashem came to judge the people concerning their baseless hatred etc., there was no room to be lenient, because corresponding to the people's actions they deserved to be treated according to the strict letter of the law.

So we have 2 notions in the idea of middah ke'neged middah. One is that a person can be punished with exactly that thing with which he sinned (e.g. water in the case of the Egyptians). And another idea is that a person is punished using the Divine attribute corresponding to the harsh personal attribute which he invoked in his dealings with other people.

In the case of Coronavirus, since the reason for any action against the anti-vaxxers was in order to protect the community from disease, it is not possible to say that a punishment should occur middah ke'neged middah for these actions (with regards to the second notion of middah ke'neged middah), because this treatment was one born of concern and not of selfish harshness. Simply put, it is not possible that we should say that Hashem should punish someone or a tzibbur for doing a mitzvah.

Concerning the comparison to Kamtza and Bar Kamtza:

In that case, the gemara says that since Bar Kamtza was publicly humiliated. Hashem allowed him to avenge himself of his humiliation, as the gemara says

https://www.sefaria.org/Gittin.57a?lang=bi

תניא אמר רבי אלעזר בא וראה כמה גדולה כחה של בושה שהרי סייע הקב"ה את בר קמצא והחריב את ביתו ושרף את היכלו:

"To conclude the story of Kamtza and bar Kamtza and the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gemara cites a baraita. It is taught: Rabbi Elazar says: Come and see how great is the power of shame, for the Holy One, Blessed be He, assisted bar Kamtza, who had been humiliated, and due to this humiliation and shame He destroyed His Temple and burned His Sanctuary."

I.e. Bar Kamtza "felt better" after his humiliation had been redressed by the destruction of the beis ha'mikdash. This redressing was valid in the eyes of Hashem, Who therefore allowed the destructive chain of events described in the gemara to take place.

If we were to say that the treatment of the anti-vaxxers is analogous to the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, then we would have to say that the anti-vaxxers were humiliated by the "establishment", and therefore the "establishment" was smitten by Hashem with a disease for which there is no vaccine, which punishment ameliorates the humiliation of the anti-vaxxers. I.e. we would have to say that the anti-vaxxers were happy that the general community was visited with Coronavirus.

It is impossible that the anti-vaxxers are happy with that outcome, for if they were, you would have to say that they were happy that people had died, which obviously they are not. Therefore there is no analogy to the case of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

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