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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