Shabbat-Table Talks: Beha'alotekha
By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[This week's Table
Talks is dedicated in honor of Rabbi Ezra Labaton - may he have a refuah
Value: Praying for the sick.
Unfortunately, sickness is a part of life. Of course, the high value that the
Torah places on human life requires that we do everything that we can to
overcome sickness and be healthy. While we should appreciate the advances that
Medicine has made in understanding the health and sickness, we must also
remember that, ultimately, Hashem heals. Part of our approach to the sick is to
pray for them.
Background: In this week’s perasha, Miryam, Moshe’s sister is
smitten by a case of leprosy after she spoke disparagingly about Moshe.
Following Aharon’s plea to Moshe to have compassion on their sister, Moshe
prays to Hashem with a very short but moving prayer. Did Hashem answer Moshe’s
prayer? Read the text and decide for yourself.
the cloud turned away from above the tent, Behold, Miryam has leprosy like snow.
When Aharon faced Miryam, behold she has leprosy. Aharon said to Moshe: Please,
my lord, please, do not impose on us guilt for a sin by which we were foolish,
by which we sinned.
do not let her be like a dead child, who when it comes out of its mother’s
womb, is eaten up in half its flesh.
cried out to Hashem saying: O God, please, heal her, please.
said to Moshe: If her father spat, yes, spat in her face, would she not be put
to shame for seven days (at least)? Let her be shut up for seven days outside
the camp, afterward she may be gathered back.
Miryam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not march
on until Miryam had been gathered-back. (Only) afterward did the people march on
from Hasserrot, they encamped in the Wilderness of Paran.
Analysis: Notice that Aharon first turns to Moshe to beseech God on
Miryam’s behalf. Moshe was the person wronged by Miryam’s speech, his
agreement to pray for her means that he bears no grudge. Moshe “cried out”
in a very brief prayer for Hashem to heal Miryam. The prayer recognizes
Hashem’s ability to heal. Moshe approaches God humbly, using the Hebrew word
“na” (“please”) twice (2 out of the five Hebrew words are “please”).
Hashem’s hears Moshe’s prayer, yet Miryam is not healed immediately. Hashem
explains that he would heal her immediately if it did not mean lowering the
standard of honor that are at least due to a father. Hashem feels the need to
explain to Moshe why he cannot answer Moshe’s prayer by an immediate healing.
It does not make sense within the norms and framework of the wilderness society.
A daughter insulting her father would deserve at least a week’s punishment.
That is what Miryam gets. From this point of view, one could say that Hashem did
not answer Moshe’s prayer; Miryam was not healed immediately. On the other
hand, Miryam does heal quickly. Leprosy was a very serious disease. People would
travel very far to find a cure for this dreaded disease. Miryam’s case came
upon her suddenly and it lasted for a relatively short time of seven days. This
is the way that Hashem did answer Moshe’s intercessory prayer for Miryam.
Do you think it was right for Moshe to pray for his sister
to get well?
Why should one pray for someone who is sick? (We believe
that sickness and health are ultimately in Hashem’s hands. When we pray we
recognize that fact and turn to the source of all health and sickness--Hashem.)
Should we only pray or do other things as well? (Of course,
we have to do other things. Along with praying, we will definitely do whatever
is in our power to help the person. Some of the ways that Hashem helps the sick
get well, is by giving the knowledge and concern to the people around him
(doctors, family, friends, etc.) to help him get well.)
One of the purposes of the very important missva of
visiting the sick is to be able to better pray for the person. That is why we
should not visit the sick too early in the morning, as he might be feeling a
little better than his situation really is, just because it is morning. One
might get the wrong impression that things are not that bad, and not pray as
intently as one should. In addition, one should not visit the sick too late in
the evening. They might be suffering more, just because it is nighttime. One
might get the wrong impression that things are hopeless and not pray at all.
Discussion for older groups:
Do you think that Hashem listened to Moshe’s prayer? (On
the one hand, no—she did not get better immediately. On the other hand, yes,
because she did get better in a relatively short time.) One might say that
Hashem considered Moshe’s prayer and it had an impact on Miryam’s quick,
though not immediate, recovery. Prayer is not magical. It does not work
automatically, even when the person praying is Moshe and even when he says all
the right words. Hashem is not bound to listen to prayer and respond in the way
that is being requested.
Of late, there have been several attempts to scientifically
prove that prayer works. There is a great difference of opinion as to whether
prayer has been proven to work scientifically.
There have been books written on the subject (_Healing Words_
by Larry Dossey, M.D.). There are also many articles and sites on the web
that discuss this topic. Here is one example to start. Judge for yourself. (Of
course, we believe that prayer works. Yet, some people need scientific proof.)
may reduce the number of complications experienced by hospitalized heart
patients, researchers report. Heart patients who were prayed for by others, but
were not aware of being the object of prayers, had an 11% reduction in medical
complications or the need for surgery or medication while in hospital, according
to the investigators. The authors examined the medical charts of nearly 1,000
heart patients, following their health histories between hospital admission and
patients in the study received standard medical care. But unbeknownst to the
patients, the researchers provided the first names of about half the patients to
15 teams of five self-identified, practicing Christians. These individuals
prayed daily for the healthy recovery of selected patients for a period of 4
weeks. The remaining patients were not prayed for as part of the study.
authors report that the prayed-for patients had significantly lower complication
rates than those not prayed for in the study. The research team effectively
ruled out patient bias as a possible factor behind the benefits associated with
prayer, since both patients and hospital staff were completely unaware of the
very existence of the trial.
they say they have no "mechanistic explanation" as to how the prayers
of strangers might have helped speed patient healing. The odds that chance might
explain the findings are about 1 in 25, according to the authors.
they refer to the theories of those who believe that "natural or
supernatural" causes may be behind the 'healing power of prayer.' Believers
in the 'natural causes' theory propose that some as-yet-undiscovered natural
force is "'generated' by the intercessors and 'received' by the
patients," according to the researchers.
the other hand, those subscribing to a supernatural explanation point to the
existence of God or some force beyond the ken of science. A 1988 trial involving
339 San Francisco patients also found results remarkably similar to those of the
This article was taken from the following web site: http://mercola.com/article/prayer/
I have found the Templeton website to present a broader
range of views on the issue:
But also see http://www.csicop.org/sb/2001-12/reality-check.html
for the skeptics’ view.
To read last year's Table Talk click here.
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