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Why say "gezuntheit" after a sneeze?

Why say "gezuntheit" after a sneeze?



What is the origin of saying "gezuntheit" or "G‑d bless you" after someone sneezes?


Although not technically part of Jewish Law (halachah), saying gezuntheit, tzu gezunt, labreeyut, or G‑d bless you is considered a mannerly custom. It is written in the Midrash that the Patriarch Jacob was the first person to become ill before passing on. Before that, people would sneeze and die. When G‑d infused the soul into Man, He "blew it" into Adam's nostrils. Thus, when it came time for the soul to be returned to its Maker, it would leave through the same portal it arrived.

Furthermore, sneezing has always been an indication of being sick. During the Middle Ages, when plague was common, and a sneeze could have meant a serious, incurable disease, people would wish that person to be blessed.

My Bubby taught me that the first time a person sneezes it is proper to say tzu gezunt – to health; the second time, tzum leben – to life; and the third time, tzu lange yoren – to long years.

Many have the custom after sneezing to gently tug one's earlobe and recite the verse, "lee-shua-techa kiviti Adonai – I hope for your salvation, O G‑d."

Herschel Finman has been involved in Jewish outreach for close to 30 years. For the last 20, Rabbi Finman has lived in Oak Park, Michigan, with his wife Chana and seven children. He is the coordinator of the Detroit Jewish Judicial Seminar, an adjunct professor of philosophy at Oakland Community College, and professor of Judaic studies at Michigan Jewish Institute.
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Lisa Koffler Providence, RI October 22, 2014

Sneezing Gezuntheit (Yiddish: "Be Healthy") was also said by MY grandmother, too! Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles July 18, 2012

Abraham and Isaac If jacob brought on sickness before death what did abraham and Isaac bring? Reply

Gershon McGreevy Wichita, KS March 10, 2011

Jacob's Illness Well, the Bible tells us that Jacob was blind when he was old--but then so was Isaac. So that may not have been it. Perhaps it was simply the frailty associated with old age... Reply

Anonymous USA March 6, 2011

Jacob's illness What was the illness that Jacob suffered before dying? Thank you. Reply

Menachem Posner for August 27, 2009

To Awraham: This verse (Gen. 49:18) is found in Jacob’s blessing to his son, Dan. People do say it with G-d’s name because these three words actually constitute an entire verse of the Torah.

Here is the Hebrew original:
לִישׁוּעָתְךָ קִוִּיתִי ה Reply

Awraham August 26, 2009

What is the source? Hallo, I would like to know where is the source of the phrase "lee-shua-techa kiviti Ad-nai"? In TaNaH or other texts? I know many people (even not jews) who also have the custom to tug their earlobe without saying anything. Are you allowed to say G-d's in such a case? And finally, could you write this phrase also in hebrew letters?
Thanks a lot. Reply

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