By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
The posuk tell us that Yaakov Avinu battled with a malach until the morning. The Gemara in Chullin, daf tzaddik alef, amud alef brings down Reb Yitzchok who says that from here we see that a talmid chacham should not go out alone at night. The Gemara also tells us that the reason Yaakov went alone at night was because he left some small jugs and he wanted to retrieve them. We learn from this that tzadikkim value their money more than their own bodies because they earn the money righteously and do not steal.
There is a machlokes whether the halacha about not going out alone at night applies only to talmidei chachamim, or whether it applies to a regular person as well. Tosfos, on the above Gemara, quotes Rabbeinu Tam who says that this halacha applies only to a talmid chacham since the demons are jealous of talmidei chachamim. We find this concept in Berachos, daf nun daled, amud bais that lists three people who need extra protection: a king, a chosson, and a talmid chacham. On the other hand, we find the Gemara in Pesachim, daf bais, amud alef that says that a person should attempt to enter the city when it is light and not leave the city until the next morning. From this Gemara it sounds like it is forbidden for anyone, since the Gemara does not say, “talmid chacham.” One may make the differentiation that the Gemara in Pesachim is dealing with a case where a person is far from his city and many dangers and robbers abound there. It would be commonly accepted to say that even a common Jew who is not a tamid chacham should not go out alone there at night.
Tosfos in Pesachim, daf bais, amud alef argues on Rabbeinu Tam and says that the issur of walking alone at night applies to everyone and is not limited to talmidei chachamim. The Maharsha asks the question, according to Tosfos why does the Gemara mention talmid chacham? The Maharsha answers that the Gemara is teaching us a chiddush that a talmid chacham should not make the mistake of saying that his Torah will protect him. In a place of danger one may not rely on a miracle.
In the Gemara in Chagigah, daf gimmel, amud bais we find that the Gemara identifies a shotah (fool) as a person who goes out alone at night.
Today one may be lenient in walking outside at night since there are street lamps and therefore on is considered not walking alone. This would be very important for those people who live upstate or are there for the summer. If someone walks at night, he/she should be careful to use a flashlight.
The concept of a talmid chacham valuing his money more than his body was mentioned above. We find the opposite was true regarding the bnei Gad and bnei Reuven who were chastised for valuing their cattle more than themselves. This would seem to be a contradiction. The Toras Chaim in Sanhedrin, daf ayin daled, amud alef explains that the emphasis of value of money should only be placed in the event that the money could be lost as we find that Yaakov went back for some insignificant jugs. But in the event where one’s money is not in danger, like in the case of bnei Reuven and bnei Gad where they were looking to build barns for their sheep before building dwellings for their children, their money was not in any particular danger. They therefore were castigated for looking to save their money before their children.
Let us all respect our money and the time that was spent to earn it. May we be able to enjoy both in good health.