Thursday, February 28, 2013

Healing Through Prayer

A couple of days ago, I was asked by one of the administrators at the Zale JCC Pre-school, where my son is a student, to pray with a couple of the teachers for healing for two of their teachers.  This pre-school is very special for so many reasons, but one of the most interesting aspects of the school, in my opinion, is the amount of years that the teachers have been at the school.  Most of the teachers have been teaching together for twenty or more years, and the newbies have been there for close to six years!  Their commitment to the school and our children, to the families, and to each other is felt in every aspect of the school and part of it comes home every day to the homes of hundreds of families in Boca Raton.  When I entered into the room this morning, I expected to be praying with a couple of these teacher's close friends, maybe four or five teachers, but I entered a room with dozens of people who were desperately looking to make a difference in their friends' lives. 

According to our Jewish tradition, God has many names and different ways that God manifests Godself in our lives.  A couple of these names are רופא חולים (healer of the sick); our healer; צור ישראל (Rock of Israel).  With these names, we acknowledge that God has a role in healing, and during the turbulent points in our lives, God is a rock, an unmovable force that stands to hold us steady.  Before we prayed, I told everyone one thing:  I don't know if our prayers will "work" in the way that you might want them to.  When we pray for healing, sometimes we may be praying for God to literally heal those who are ill, to take away their afflictions.  Sometimes, our loved ones recover, but sometimes, God forbid, they do not.  The Talmud warns us against praying for things we know are already beyond God's hands, for example, praying for the sex of the baby in the late stages of pregnancy when the sex of the baby has already been determined.  However, I told them that although their friends going through treatment  were not there, the teachers are going to show them the pictures they took, give them heart shaped notes with words of encouragement, and of course, they will tell them how they prayed for them.  

There have been many studies as to the power of prayer in healing, and of course, there are two sides.  Here is my opinion:  prayer cannot replace medicine.  God's power of healing was also given to God's partners in creation - humanity and our doctors and nurses work tirelessly trying to heal the sick and wounded.  Although prayer cannot replace medicine, I believe that prayer can act as a healing force.  It might not cure a disease, but it can make one's experience coping with disease easier.  It can lift the spirits of the sick and the ones supporting those who are sick.  

We stood together in the center of the pre-school, holding hands, and I offered some words of prayer.  I recited some Psalms, ancient words from the Hebrew Bible, and I offered my own prayer to God.  I prayed for a swift recovery for those teachers undergoing treatment and for the healing of everyone else in our community.  I thanked God for creating a people that stood together for their fellow neighbor and for a people who loved not only God, but each other.  After we prayed, we stood for a moment of silence, and I think all of us felt the Shechinah, the divine presence, among us.  We ended with a song of healing, and we went our separate ways.  I had not experienced anything like those few brief moments, and I will always treasure them.  

For more information about Jewish responses to healing, I highly recommend these articles:

Choosing Life: Prayer and Healing by By Rabbi Anne Brener  

Mi Sheberakh: May the One Who Blessed:  The traditional Jewish prayer for the sick by Rabbi Simkcha Weintraub




Faculty and administrators at Zale Pre-School with me (sorry that it's so blurry!)
Faculty and administrators at Zale Pre-School