Adding Years to Someone’s Lifetime – Bava Basra 11


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The Gemora cites a braisa: It was related of Binyamin the Righteous who was a supervisor of the charity fund. One day a woman came to him in a year of famine, and said to him, “Master, please assist me.” He replied, “I swear by the service in the Holy Temple that there is nothing in the charity fund.” She said, “Master, if you do not assist me, a woman and her seven children will perish.” He accordingly assisted her out of his own funds. Some time afterwards he became deathly ill. The angels addressed the Holy One, Blessed be He, saying, “Master of the Universe, You have said that he who preserves one soul of Israel is considered as if he had preserved the entire world; shall then Binyamin the Righteous who has preserved a woman and her seven children die at such an early age?” Immediately, his decree was torn up. It has been taught that twenty-two years were added to his life.

The Metzudas David asks that this seems to contradict Rabbi Akiva’s opinion in Yevamos (49b), where the Gemora states: I (HaShem) shall fill the number of your days; these are the years that a person is granted to live at the beginning of his life. If he merits, those years will be completed. If he does not merit, they will decrease years from his lifetime; these are the words of Rabbi Akiva. Evidently, he holds that Hashem completes his years, but He does not add to them!?

He answers according to that which Tosfos writes there: Rabbi Akiva holds that when a person lives for a very long time, those years are not an addition to his allotted life, but rather a blessing from Hashem to live out his allotted time. Hashem does not add years to a person’s lifetime. That is only with respect to his own years. However, if years are deducted from another person’s life, those years can be added to someone else, provided that he deserves it.

Accordingly, it can be said that the twenty-two years which were added to Binyamin the Righteous’ lifetime, were in fact years that were deducted from others. And because Binyamin was so deserving, those years were added to his life.