In this midrash, the Avot each make a wish to Hashem for an improvement in the world. I have a couple of kashes on Yitzchak's wish:

אָמַר לְפָנָיו רִבּוֹן כָּל הָעוֹלָמִים אָדָם מֵת בְּלֹא יִסּוּרִים

He said before Him, "Master of all the worlds, man dies without yissurin [i.e. having suffered in life to atone for his misdeeds]..."

Hashem then grants him this wish, that there should be yissurin in the world, and starts with Yitzchak Avinu by making him blind.

I have 2 questions on this:

  1. What happened to the curses given to mankind after the sin in Gan Eden? They are specifically curses that life should be a life of difficulty and pain. E.g. man has to sweat and work hard to make food, women have to give birth in pain.

  2. Yaacov Avinu proceeds to wish for illness in the world, but didn't we already see illness just now with Yitzchak, i.e. blindness?

  • Blindness is not the same thing as יִסּוּרִים.
    – The GRAPKE
    Jan 3 at 15:42
  • 2
    @TheGRAPKE וְכֵיוָן שֶׁעָמַד יִצְחָק נָתַן לוֹ יִסּוּרִים, וַיְהִי כִּי זָקֵן יִצְחָק וַתִּכְהֶיןָ. ?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 3 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


Your second questions answers your first.

Yaakov didn't ask for "illness in the world", but for illness prior to death. That is

Jacob demanded illness. He said before Him: ‘Master of the universe, a person dies without illness and does not settle matters between his children. When he is ill for two or three days, he settles matters between his children.’

The famous associated idea was that a person would sneeze and their life would leave them, thus Asusa / Gesundheit. The think Yaakov asked for is mortal illness, rather than sudden death. And blindness, while something that could be called an illness, is not mortal, and wouldn't necessarily prompt someone to take stock and settle his worldly matters.

It is not that no one ever became sick at all beforehand. There is a pasuk! וַיִּתְפַּלֵּ֥ל אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיִּרְפָּ֨א אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־אֲבִימֶ֧לֶךְ וְאֶת־אִשְׁתּ֛וֹ וְאַמְהֹתָ֖יו וַיֵּלֵֽדוּ׃. And see Ramban's commentary. Rather, it was the kind of sickness leading to death.

In terms of your first question, Yitzchak didn't ask for general suffering, as if no one else before him had suffered. As you mention, people struggled with livelihood. Surely the people of Sodom, captured by enemy kings, suffered. There was famine that caused Avraham to visit Egypt.

Rather, the request was "Master of the universe, a person dies without suffering, the attribute of justice is outstretched against him. When you bring suffering upon him, the attribute of justice is not outstretched against him." The type of suffering mentioned is one associated with old age and eventual death. Thus, blindness. Not that no person in the world had ever endured suffering until then.

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