Illness focuses our attention on the fragility of our health. Questions will arise about why illness happens, for both the patient and the caretakers. Some will understand their infirmity as a challenge, others as an opportunity, and some will believe it is a punishment. Along with the affliction comes a flood of emotional responses such as panic, hope, sadness or determination.
Some reject illness as a failure. We may expect all of our preventative health care to have kept us healthy and when we are ill we may assume that modern medicine will cure us. However, there are many kinds of healing. Healing is not only curing the body. Healing may be of the soul as well – with open-heartedness for regret, forgiveness, acceptance, reconciliation and love.
In Torah we read, “I am your healer. On life’s journeys you will face the seas of struggle, celebration, fear and joy, and whatever comes, I am there to heal and guide you.” (Exodus 15:26, as translated by R’ Yael Levy of A Way In) When one has been sick, whether physically or emotionally or spiritually, one may feel cut off from the community or cut off from spiritual life. But Torah depicts God as our healer, the One Who is with us in sickness and in health. May we feel accompanied as we walk the journey of healing, even when “healing” doesn’t or can’t mean a cure for what ails us.
Scroll down to find resources for this lifecycle moment.
Traditional prayers said by the individual:
Elohai neshamah she’natata be, tehora he:
My God, the breath You have given me is pure and refreshing.
You create it. You form it. You keep me breathing.
One day, You will take it from me.
I will have breathed my last breath in this body.
And you will resuscitate me to the life of the spirit.
With every breath still in me, I thank you my God,
God of my forebearers, Sustenance of all spirits,
Master of all that happens.
I worship you – Yah, Who with each breath
Gives life anew.
(From the daily liturgy)
I worship You, Yah, Our God, Cosmic Majesty:
You formed me a human being so wisely;
You created in me all manner of hollows and ducts,
Inner organs and intestines.
As I am completely transparent before You,
It is apparent and clear,
That if any of these openings would clog,
Or if any of these enclosures would seep,
I could not exist
And live in your sight, not even for a moment.
So I am grateful and bless You
For healing me in amazing ways.
(From the daily liturgy, translated by R’ Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l) Ω
Numbers 12: 10 – 13
As the cloud withdrew from the Tent, there was Miriam stricken with snow-white scales! When Aaron turned toward Miriam, he saw that she was stricken with scales. And Aaron said to Moses, “O my lord, account not to us the sin which we committed in our folly. Let her not be as one dead, who emerges from his mother’s womb with half his flesh eaten away.” So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, pray heal her!”
Yah! Please don’t chide me in Your anger; don’t scold me in Your wrath.
I need You to show me kindness; I am so miserable – Heal me, God!
My bones ache so; my inner self is very troubled.
I ask you God, how long must I endure?
Relent, Yah, and for mercy’s sake, pull me out and spare me.
How can I remember You if I am dead in the pits?
Who will think of you?
I groan and am all worn out.
I sob on my bed; my tears drench my mattress.
My eyes are stinging from frustration,
As if my troubles wept them out.
Away with you, all you traffickers of sin!
God has heard my wailing.
God has listened to my pleading;
God will fulfill my prayer.
Confusion and embarrassment on you, you fiends!
This very moment, let shame bring you to your senses
(based upon a translation by R’ Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l)
A psalm of David.
A song for the dedication of the House.
I extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.
O LORD, You brought me up from Sheol, preserved me from going down into the Pit.
O you faithful of the LORD, sing to Him, and praise His holy name.
For He is angry but a moment, and when He is pleased there is life. One may lie down
weeping at nightfall; but at dawn there are shouts of joy.
When I was untroubled, I thought, “I shall never be shaken,”
for You, O Lord, when You were pleased, made [me] firm as a mighty mountain. When
You hid Your face, I was terrified.
I called to You, O LORD; to my Lord I made appeal,
“What is to be gained from my death, from my descent into the Pit? Can dust praise You?
Can it declare Your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; O LORD, be my help!”
You turned my lament into dancing, you undid my sackcloth and girded me with joy,
that [my] whole being might sing hymns to You endlessly; O LORD my God, I will praise
I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.
—Jane Kenyon (d)
The Proverbs 31 Nurse
Who can find a good-natured Nurse?
For her price is far above silver and gold.
She seeks medicines and skills,
and works willingly with others.
She gives of herself
and considers her own desires last.
A heartwarming smile is hers,
and is made beautiful in her eyes.
She girds herself with honor
and strengthens her ability with patience.
She perceives that her work is good.
Her candle does not go out by night.
She lays her hands upon understanding.
She stretches out her hand to the poor;
yet, she reaches forth hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of sorrow,
for her trust is in God.
Pride and humility are her clothing,
and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She opens her mouth with comfort,
and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Her associates rise up and call her blessed;
her patients also praise her kindness.
Many daughters have helped others,
but you excel them all.
Favor is deceitful,
and beauty is vain.
But a Nurse that
fears the Lord —
She shall be praised!
Lois Sigmon Turley, RN
םי שברך אבותינו מקור הברכה לאמותנו
mi sheberach avoteinu, m’kor hab’racha l’imoteinu
May the Source of Strength who blessed the ones before us
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing,
And let us say Amen.
מי שברך אמותינו מקור הברכה לאבותינו
Mi shebeirach imoteinu m’kor hab’racha la-avoiteinu
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’leimah,
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit,
And let us say Amen.
Debbie Friedman (d)