Praying for the Sick
The custom of praying for a sick person is a very old Jewish custom. The earliest record I know is Aharon asking his brother, Moshe, to pray for a cure for their sister, Miriam, smitten with leprosy (as it is usually mistranslated, though in this case the prayer it is certainly referring to curing a disease).
Although it is likely that the early Christians knew about this form of intervention from their Jewish background, they too see an importance in praying for some one who is sick. Thus James, 5:15, "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven."
The effect of prayer on sick patients has been the subject of a number of studies over the last few years. Though there does not seem to be a statistically conclusive improvement in patient health, and studies of a larger scope need to be carried out, there is an indication that prayer is beneficial for the sick person, even if that person is not aware of the prayers on their behalf. In a literature, I found only one study relating to Jewish prayer. The remainder concern prayer by Christian groups.
In other words, the concept of aiding healing by prayer is not a Jewish only practice.
As a result I was quite surprised last Thursday evening by my Facebook correspondent's post.
"Jewish friends, please say tehillim [Psalms] for Anna bas Riva Gisa, a 15 year-old girl that just got hit by a car. No other details at this time."
I responded, "'Why Jewish friends'? Can't non-Jews pray for [unknown to them] other people too?"
Out of left field, my friend replies, "DING! Time for Menachem to be annoying".
Now from where did that come? There's something wrong with my comment? Non-Jews are unable to pray? To pray for Jews?
She switches to a private communication.
"HELLO [sic]. They daven [pray] to a different entity. I don't want to encourage them to issue prayers to a false god.
"Why on EARTH would you ask such a question in a public forum??? To make a fellow Jew look bad in front of the goyim [non-Jews]??
"That was a HORRIBLE thing to do."
I'm lost for words. What is she saying here? Are her non-Jewish friends Tibetan Buddhists or Danish sun worshippers? Do they worship stone and wood?
I would have thought, knowing her as I do, mainly from her Facebook posts, that her friends were WASPs, yes Protestants, who do not believe in the Trinity, or perhaps Moslems, whom the Rambam categorically defines as non-idol worshippers.
I comment on the public forum, "It's a serious comment that you seem incapable of dealing with other than by belittling. Extremely annoying!", I say, imitating/paraphrasing her style.
I continue, "Because you don't exclude anyone the way you just did on a public forum. I assume you have non-Jewish friends on Facebook?!
She keeps labouring the point. She never concedes. "I DO exclude people the way I just did, clearly. And I did it in a sensitive way. I've done it before and everyone understands. What you did, on the other hand, was to call me out publicly in a humiliating manner. Goyim generally don't know what tehillim are or what I was asking.
"You did it again. I was having trouble with my computer and I was TRYING to delete all those comments.
"But you had to embarrass me again".
I respond, "Then don't post on public forum. Public means just that. And I fail to understand why you were embarrassed [by what I wrote]"
How did I embarrass her again? She deleted my initial comment almost as soon as it went up. But she left her "DING! Time for Menachem to be annoying", linked to my name, leaving me hanging in the middle of a thread by now full of comments including, "Will daven [pray] for her", "Tizki l'mitzvos [may you merit many righteous deeds]" and "refuah shleimah [get well wishes]".
So I put back on the public forum, "She [I'll fight to the end to protect She's privacy], you took down my comment; now please take down the hanging comment which is clearly meant to insult ME". It took her a while to comply. Though eventually she did.
But She still can't stop her insulting mood. "Public doesn't mean you get to embarrass me. And you for sure don't get to legislate my use on online forums."
And, "Yesterday I had a conversation like this in which instead of apologizing to me, the guy wrote "adios" and blocked me. I was hoping he would take the hint and apologize. He didn't.
"So I'm going to try saying it straight out this time: I need an apology from you. That was, to me, unacceptable behavior, especially during the three weeks."
I was lost. I still don't know what she was talking about. I thought everyone would be happy to have anyone, anywhere praying for them. I guess following all my visits to Africa and East Asia, and my contact with many local people there, of both Jewish and non-Jewish origin, I have lost my last piece of racism. I firmly believe, per the Rambam, that all the non-Jews in the end will keeps God's Torah. Perhaps She has just blocked their first step.
This entire conversation took place while I was sitting in Cafe Cafe, a coffee shop half way down Gandhi’s Road, parallel to the Jordan River. We were on our way home from Mount Gilboa. Aviel just finished his meal and I and Jill our orange juice accompanying long, wide crispy chips. It was time to get back into the car for the rest of the drive home.
Nothing further posted on Friday though she's posted a scores new threads on Facebook on many other topics. She's probably forgotten the incident. I prayed for Anna bath Rivka Gisa's recovery . . . and perhaps for my correspondent’s too.
P.S. On Sunday my correspondent posted, "Sad update: Anna bas Rivka Gisa didn't make it. Blessed be the True Judge". I could only add Amen.
7th July, 2013
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