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Say a person accidentally trips because he wasn't being careful while walking. Should he blame himself or is G-d behind this incident as a way to punish the person?

  • 1
    I believe I recall a message from Hatzalah printed on a matzoh box from years ago that quoted a yerushalmi something to the effect of: 1% of those who die early it is because of a decree from heaven; the other 99% is due to negligence. – Loewian Feb 12 '15 at 19:17
  • @loewian, if you can find the actual source, that would be a great answer. – Ani Yodea Feb 13 '15 at 14:37
  • I believe the matzah box was quoting a Yerushalmi in Shabbos. There is a similar statement somewhere that attributes the majority of deaths to too much marital relations. – y.lub Feb 13 '15 at 22:08
  • @y.lub, the majority of births can be attributed to marital relations. :-) – msh210 Feb 15 '15 at 7:54
  • Never mind Yerushalmi, Bavli says הכל בידי שמים חוץ מצנים ופחים – wfb Jul 2 '15 at 17:41
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Chovos Halevavos Shaar Bitachon ch.4

Likewise, one should not put himself in danger while trusting on the decree of the Creator [that he will live a set time], drinking poisonous drink or going to battle lions or other dangerous animals without necessity, or to cast himself into the sea or into fire, or other similar things that a man is not sure of them and puts his life in danger. And the verse has already warned us in saying "You shall not try the L-ord, your G-d" (Devarim 6:16), because either one of two things will happen.

Either he will die, and it will be considered as if he killed himself, and he will be held accountable for this just as if he had killed another man, despite that his death in this fashion was a decree of the Al-mighty and occurred with His permission.

He explains there that Gd has exclusive control of the world and all things are brought to actuality by His decree. So the person being killed by the lion is not necessarily a punishment for being careless. It could be due to some other factor whether in this life or even in previous gilgul. G-d in his foresight can setup the time and place to collect His debt. The main punishment he will receive for causing himself harm is in the next world as the author continues:

And similarly the punishment for one who kills himself will undoubtedly be very great. (in the afterlife)

  • Can you reconciliation this with what the other two answers said quoting R Miller saying "a person has only themselves to blame when their carelessness causes trouble"? – Ani Yodea Feb 13 '15 at 11:59
  • @AniYodea maybe rav miller is saying this is the most likely cause though not necessarily – ray Feb 13 '15 at 12:35
  • I guess the first sentence agrees to R' Miller/Mesilat Yesharim/Mishlei: you put your self in a dangerous position so it's your fault, but the end result depends on G-d. – Ani Yodea Feb 13 '15 at 14:35
  • @AniYodea or maybe Rav Miller zt'l was referring to a case where a person thinks he is free of sin. so at least that sin of putting himself in harm's way - he is not free – ray Feb 14 '15 at 18:03
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We know that everything that happens is from Hashem (see M"Y Shaar Yirah and countless other sources). But when a person wasn't careful, he has only himself to blame for his misfortune.

The Mesilas Yesharim writes (in Shaar Hazerizus, Chapter 9) that a person who is careless is culpable for lack of care, and deserves any punishment he gets for the sin of carelessness:

ומי שירצה שלא ינהג עצמו בדרך החכמה ויפקיר עצמו לסכנות, הנה אין זה בטחון, אלא הוללות. והנה הוא חוטא במה שהוא נגד רצון הבורא יתברך שמו, שרוצה שישמור האדם את עצמו. ונמצא שמלבד הסכנה המוטבעת בדבר אשר הוא עלול אליה מפני חסרון שמירתו, הנה עוד הוא מתחיב בנפשו בקום עשה בחטא אשר הוא חוטא, ונמצא החטא עצמו מביאו ליענש.

One who allows himself not to be guided by wisdom and exposes himself to dangers is displaying not trust, but recklessness; and he is a sinner in that he flouts the will of the Creator, blessed be His Name, who desires that a man protect himself. Aside from the fact that because of his carelessness he lays himself open to the danger inherent in the threatening object, he openly calls punishment down upon himself because of the sin that he commits thereby, so that his hurt results from the sin itself.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Zt"L, is quoted multiple times as saying that a person has only themselves to blame when their carelessness causes trouble. He criticizes those who blame their (other) sins for tragedies caused by their own actions. He quotes a verse from Mishlei (19:3): "אולת אדם תסלף דרכו ועל ה׳ יזעף לבו" - "The foolishness of a person distorts his path, yet his heart fumes at G-d." When a person suffers due to his own carelessness, he has only himself to blame.

This is the general approach. In specific cases, other factors may be at work.

  • +1 - do you have any specific place where R' Miller writes about this (so that I can quote it)? – Y     e     z Feb 13 '15 at 4:39
  • He spoke about it very often in his taped Shiurim. I heard several stories, and Shokhet has another one I never even heard. It was one of the teaching he often quoted, and a typical response to tragedy. The exact source for the vort I quote in his name is one of the taped shiurim transcribed in the book, "Rabbi Avigdor Miller Speaks", by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen. – LN6595 Feb 15 '15 at 22:53
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While I haven't heard it myself, a friend of mine who is a major fan of Rav Avidgor Miller, and often listens to his tapes, told me the following story.

Someone's car was stolen, and he asked Rav Miller what it meant. Rav Miller responded that "You are being punished for leaving your car unlocked on the streets in Brooklyn!"

(The lesson of that particular lecture, if I recall my friend's summary accurately, was that sometimes a person is punished for having sinned, and sometimes a person is "punished" for just being plain foolish.)

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I think there's a strong argument to be made (according to the philosophy of e.g. the Maharal) that even what we classically think of as "reward"/"punishment" is also the natural consequence of a divinely ordained system no less organized than the natural laws. So the person can blame himself in those cases too (and G-d is behind all incidents).

(Or-short answer: Yes.)

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