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What is the Reason? Praying To Exchange Life

May someone pray to exchange his or her life with someone who is dying? H.C.

The Sha’ar Ephraim tells a story of just this question in the introduction written by his son. The writer’s brother

was deathly ill, and their father; the Sha’ar Ephraim wrapped himself in his Tallit and prayed that God take his life in exchange for his son. The son recovered and the father died.


The Sefer Chasidim (#445) tells a story of a friend who prayed that his life be exchanged for the life of a sick friend. The sick man recovered and the friend passed away.

The Chafetz Chaim instructed one of his students that once one has reached the age of fifty he might pray that his life be exchanged for the life of a sick child or grandchild. (Rabbi Yechiel Michel Stern in the name of his grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Stern.)

Where is the source for the famous saying that “Israel, the Torah, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, are One”? Y.S.

There is a Zohar with similar language. (Volume 3, 73a) “Three levels are interconnected with each other: The Holy One, Blessed is He, the Torah and Israel.” The text of the saying can be found in Adir Bamarom of the Ramchal, page 61.

Is there a source for the custom that one should set aside a place in the house for Torah study? Y.H.

The Shelah HaKodesh (Sh’nei Luchot HaBrit, Bereishit, Derech Chaim Tochochot Mussar, Vayigash) derives this concept from Jacob and Judah. Jacob sent Judah ahead to Egypt (Genesis 46:28) to establish a place of learning. (Bereishit Rabbah 95:3) The Shelah teaches that the first thing one must do when moving into a new home is to set aside a place for learning, a place in the home where scholars can gather and a place where the poor will be welcomed into the home.

What is the reason that people cry out “Shema Yisrael” “Hear o’ Israel” when they are in trouble without completing the verse, “God is our Lord, God is One.”? C.S.

The brother of the Maharal of Prague, in his book, Sefer HaChaim, (Forgiveness & Atonement) explains that the expression “Shema Yisrael” is addressed to God, Who is also known as Israel. It is not necessarily from the verse.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurebach , in explaining Rashi (Deuteronomy 20:3) who seems to focus on “Shema Yisrael” although the main part of the verse is the declaration of God as Lord and as a Unity, says that we are calling on our merit for saying the “Shema” every day.

Is there any mention of CPR in the Bible or Talmud? R.A.

The Yalkut Shimoni (Bamidbar #742) writes that when Moses’ spies were in Hebron gathering fruit, that Talmai, the giant, roared at them and some of them fainted. The other spies breathed into their mouths and they recovered. (The Zayit Ra’anan says that the Canaanites performed the CPR) The Ba’al Haturim (Exodus 1:15) based on a verse in Job (26:13) explains that Shifra, the midwife, was so named because she would breathe into the mouths of babies who were born not breathing.

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