From the Desk - What's the Deal with Davening for Those who are Unwell?
Shalom Friends! I hope you're all well and enjoying the beautiful snow! Last Friday night, we enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat Chanukah dinner here at Beth Ora. The event was superbly organized by Jackie Harroch and Howie Brown. The kids were treated to a range of games and prizes whilst the adults listened to a talk from my mother-in-law on the Jews of Greece. The meal was delicious and it was so nice to celebrate Chanukah together as a community. We wish our deepest condolences to Fran Brenhouse and the whole family on the loss of our former trustee and board member, Howard, and to Aaron and Earl Adler and their entire family on the passing of our longstanding member, Laura. May they, their families and our community only enjoy happy occasions in the future. Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with...Davening for Those Who Are Unwell? The Torah relates how Abraham davened on behalf of Abimelech who was unwell and how Moses prayed that his sister, Miriam, be cured of her disease. These stories establish the precedent of praying for those who are unwell. To be sure, a person who is sick is also encouraged to pray for him or herself as, indeed, Ishmael cried out and was saved by Hashem when he was in danger of dying of thirst. According to Rashi, this story establishes that the prayers of the sick person are actually preferable and more effective than the prayers of others. Nevertheless, there are those who disagree with this view and, in any case, it is recognized that the sick person may often not be in a position to pray with proper focus and concentration. The 11th century German mystic, Rabbi Judah ben Samuel, emphasizes that all Jews are responsible for one another. Therefore, if one knows of a Jew who is unwell it is sinful not to pray for him or her. The classic codes of Jewish law emphasize that a person who goes to visit someone who is unwell should also pray for the patient, with some even considering this essential for the proper performance of the mitzvah. Although our practice is to mention the patient's Hebrew name when praying, the Talmud and halakhic authorities explain that if one is praying in the presence of the sick person, it is not necessary to say the name. It's important to note that praying for a patient doesn't necessarily mean that we pray literally in front of the person. One should use one's judgement as to whether this would or would not be appreciated by the patient. The 20th century halakhic authority, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, explains that one can pray in an adjacent room if that is more practical and sensitive. He also notes that giving the patient a blessing for a 'refuah shelemah' (a complete recovery) is considered a prayer. The 13th century Spanish moralist and Talmudist, Rabbenu Yona, notes that it is appropriate to pray for any human being who is unwell and that this is the practice of righteous people.