Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Asking for Prayers

People network for many different reasons. Some people use networking to promote their businesses; others to share jokes or recipes. In many circles, networking, such as that found on social media, is used to spread the word about family and friends who are ill and are in need of prayers for good health.

While some people prefer keeping news of illness private (a very valid point of view), it is interesting to note that there may be a precedent in the Torah for announcing the need for healing prayers. In the Torah, the most commonly discussed affliction is that of tzara’at (often mistranslated as leprosy), a skin disease with spiritual ramifications attributed to lashon harah (evil speech). One who discovered the white spots of tzara’at, went to the priest rather than a doctor for diagnosis. While the treatment for tzara’at was isolation, the true cure was teshuva, repentance. Once the priest declared that a person had tzara’at, the Torah instructs that the afflicted shall cry out: “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45).

The sages of the Talmud wondered why it was necessary for the person to call out his/her unclean status: “It is required for what has been taught...one must make his distress known to many so that many pray for mercy on his/her behalf” (Talmud Moed Katan 5a).

For those who do receive requests for prayers, whether by social media, email or word of mouth, it is customary to pray for a sick person using his/her Hebrew name and the name of his/her mother. Traditionally, Psalm 20 is recited in the merit of refuah shelaimah (speedy recovery) .

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