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Simcha Groffman

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Parashas Vayetze

Refuah Shelayma

"Abba, I just found out that one of our neighbors is sick. I want to pray for him."

"It pains me to hear that he is sick, Avi, but it gives me great nachas knowing that you care enough for him to pray for him. The sefer Yesod Vi'shoresh Ho'avodah relates that you fulfill the mitzvah of 'You shall love your fellow as yourself' (Vayikra 19:18) when you pray for the refuah (healing) of another Jew."

"Where and when do I pray for him, Abba?"

"Let us begin by looking into the eighth blessing of the Amidah, the blessing for healing. It dates back to Avraham Avinu, who needed a refuah from his bris milah. The malach (angel) Refael came and healed him. The other malochim proclaimed, 'Blessed are You Hashem, Who heals the sick of His people Yisrael'. Based upon this, our Elders fixed this blessing in our daily prayers.ii Levush as cited in Otzer HaTefillos The source of the wording of the bracha is the verse, 'Heal me Hashem, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved; for You are my praise.'iii Yirmiyahu 17:14 Rashi explains, 'for You are my praise' - I am praised and glorified because You saved me. It is a praise and glory for the Jew that he is dear to Hashem and important enough for the Almighty to save him (from the illness). When a person recites this bracha, he should mechaven (concentrate) on requesting that Hashem heal us so that we will be healthy and strong to toil in Torah and fulfill mitzvos.iiii Seder Hayom as cited in Otzer HaTefillos"

"What an important blessing, Abba. I have some questions on its wording."

"Go right ahead, Avi."

"There seems to be a repetition in the words, 'Heal us Hashem - then we will be healed; save us - then we will be saved.'" "Excellent question, Avi! The Eitz Yosef asks this question and answers it with a citation from the Zohar (Parashas Balak). All healing ultimately comes from Hashem, however some cures are sent via shlichim (agents), and some come directly from Him. The disease healed by a shliach sometimes comes back (i.e. he may only relieve the pain and symptoms, but leave the illness uncurediiv Siach Yitzchak as cited in Artscroll Siddur), however, when Hashem Himself cures the illness it does not return. Additionally, Hashem's cures are neither painful nor unpleasant, whereas the shliach's operations or treatments make bring suffering. Therefore we request, 'Heal us Hashem' - Yourself - 'then we will be healed', 'save us - Yourself - then we will be saved' - a complete and painless cure. The Eitz Yosef himselfvv and also Maggid Tsedek makes a differentiation between diseases of the body, and those of the spirit. 'Heal us Hashem' refers to 'refuas hanefesh'. You begin the healing process, Hashem, 'then we will be healed' we will finish it off and overcome the illness. Our spirit has the strength to prevail over the sickness with Your help. 'Bring complete recovery for all our ailments' - refers to 'refuas haguf' - diseases of the body - which are totally in Your hands. We ask for complete healing from beginning to end from all of our ailments and wounds, for in this area we are helpless without You. The Iyun Tefillah explains that the words, 'for all our ailments' include both diseases of the body, and those of the spirit. The Ohr HaChama has a different approach. He asks the question, 'save us - then we will be saved' usually refers to a salvation, as in the previous bracha of the Amida. How is it relevant to refuah? He answers that we are requesting salvation from the 'disease' of being in the clutches of the Yetzer Hara, who hounds us to sin. Being freed from him is referred to 'refuas hanefesh'."

"Those are wonderful answers, Abba. Thank you very much. I have some other questions."

"I hope to be able to answer them as well, Avi."

"Why is Hashem called, 'King, faithful, and compassionate healer'?"

"That is a very thoughtful question, Avi. The Achareis Lishalomvvi as cited in Otzer HaTefillos answers your question by citing another difference between the healing of a shliach and that of Hashem Himself. The shliach must sometimes administer bitter unpleasant medicine or painful procedures. He cannot have compassion on the patient's suffering and withhold the treatment, for without it he cannot heal the ailment. However, Hashem has the might to heal the patient without any medicines or procedures. Therefore, he is called a 'faithful and compassionate healer' - even though He has compassion by not giving the painful treatment, He is nonetheless faithful to cure the patient."

"Hashem's mercy is endless. We keep hearing that the best cures come straight from Hashem."

"True, Avi. However, even the treatments administered by shluchim have above natural curing powers for the Jewish body and soul. The Siddur Iyun Tefillah interprets the closing line of the bracha, 'Who heals the sick of His people Yisrael' to mean that Hashem's cures for His nation Yisrael are beyond the laws of nature. The other nations receive healing that works within the framework of nature. Therefore, the bracha of 'Asher yatzar', which deals with general natural health, (the creation man with the ability to cleanse his body), states, 'rofeh kol bassar' - the healer of all flesh (in the world). However, in the bracha of refuah, which deals with the supernatural healing to Klal Yisrael, we say 'rofeh cholei amo Yisrael'. This makes us realize that the treatment for the disease can only work with the permission of the Almighty."vvii Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch

"Abba, may I pray for healthy people to continue enjoying good health and not fall into the clutches of illness?"

"You certainly may, Avi. Firstly, if they have now become healthy after being sick, you should thank Hashem for their refuah. This thanks should be expressed in the closing line of the bracha, 'Blessed are You Hashem, Who heals the sick of His people Yisrael'vviii Yesod Vi'shoresh Ho'avodah Secondly, it is always good to pray for good health, as the Gemoraiix Shabbos 32a states, 'A person should always ask for rachmonus (mercy) that he will not become sick.' At what point in the Amidah should we include this prayer? The Pri Megadimxx Mishna Brura (1) on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 119:1 rules that the request belongs in the sixteenth blessing of 'shomaya tefillah'. Other authorities do not differentiate and allow its inclusion in 'refaeynu'."

"Abba, you are an overflowing well of Torah! May Hashem always grant you the good health to continue learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvos!"


Kinderlach . . .

Oy how a sick person suffers! Oy how it pains us to see his suffering! What can we do for him? We can help him. We can join in his distress by praying for him, because all of Klal Yisrael is one soul and one body.xxi Yaaros Devash We fulfill the mitzvah of 'You shall love your fellow as yourself' when we pray for him. We pray that he should receive a refuah straight from Hashem - a complete cure without painful medicines, operations, or treatments. We pray that both his body and soul be healed. When he comes back to health, we thank Hashem for His refuah. And we also pray for continued strength for the healthy people, so they may carry on in their toiling in Torah and guarding Hashem's mitzvos. "Refaeynu Hashem vi'neirofeh!"

i Levush as cited in Otzer HaTefillos
ii Yirmiyahu 17:14
iii Seder Hayom as cited in Otzer HaTefillos
iv Siach Yitzchak as cited in Artscroll Siddur
v and also Maggid Tsedek
vi as cited in Otzer HaTefillos
vii Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch
viii Yesod Vi'shoresh Ho'avodah
ix Shabbos 32a
x Mishna Brura (1) on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 119:1
xi Yaaros Devash

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