I recently heard a touching story from Rabbi Natasha Mann about her friend and colleague, Rabbi Morris Panitz.
Panitz had a second child last year but, soon after the birth, the child fell ill and was being treated in hospital.
While waiting to find out whether the child would respond to the treatment and recover, the paediatrician said something any parent would dread to hear. “It’s in God’s hands now.” Without missing a beat, Panitz replied: “You are God’s hands. That’s how this works.”
It may be surprising to us to hear the doctor’s words echoed in Exodus, where we are told: “I, the Eternal, am your healer.”
My community includes a prayer for healing in every Shabbat evening service. Yet anyone who has lost a loved one when those prayers did not appear to be “answered” may find it hard to reject the image of a cold-hearted God who chooses not to heal.
When a community prays for healing, we recognise the impact of sharing our anxieties, bringing the vulnerable into the hearts and minds of the entire community. They go from being in the hands of the doctors only into the love and care of their community.
If we create the right space in which people can acknowledge the long-term conditions with which they struggle to live, we hope to be part of their finding an inner peace, a psychological healing from what it means to accept living with the implications of those limitations or symptoms.
This prayer also aims to elevate the acceptance that sometimes a complete healing may only be possible in the world to come and that healing comes with letting go.
Perhaps God’s healing is experienced as being delivered via doctors, via the love and support of others or through the resilience of one’s spirit.
- Rabbi Miriam Berger serves Finchley Reform Synagogue