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I've heard that the custom of saying tzu gezunt, bless you etc. When someone sneezes is because until Ya'akov, people used to sneeze and die, but Ya'akov was the first one to first get sick. What is the source for this.

  • possible duplicate of Saying "Laberiut" "God bless you" or "Gesundheit" – DanF Sep 9 '14 at 18:49
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    @DanF The question is slightly different, he's looking for the halachik source to say tzu gezunt, while I'm looking for the story behind it, but some if the answers there definitely answer my question. – user613 Sep 9 '14 at 21:05
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The Pirkei D'Reb Eliezer 52(starting from the words Mofes Arba) writes that from creation until Yaakov people would go out to the shuk and they would sneeze and then die without sickness beforehand.

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Until Yaakov there was no sickness, once Yaakov came he begged for mercy and there was sickness. Bava Metzia 87a

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    Thanks, but it's only a partial answer (which is still good). Do you know where it speaks about people sneezing and then dieing? – user613 Sep 7 '14 at 3:40
  • What is merciful in there being sickness? – Tamir Evan Sep 7 '14 at 14:02
  • @TamirEvan Because you know it's coming and can prepare for it. – Shokhet Sep 7 '14 at 14:41
  • @Shokhet (1) By "it" you mean "sickness"? (2) if you mean "death": (a) Surely there are less afflicting ways to announce imminent departure. (b) Some people get sick, and get well to live long lives, yet others die in their sleep without warning. Sickness is hardly a reliable way to know death is coming. – Tamir Evan Sep 7 '14 at 16:41
  • @TamirEvan I meant death. You're right, but that was the reason I heard given for this idea; never claimed it made sense :P – Shokhet Sep 7 '14 at 21:28

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