We move in Torah this week to a passage that is filled with various stories and sub plots. There is the call for the Levites, the stirrings of rebellion and some sibling issues between Moses, Aaron and Miriam. We find in Numbers [12:13], what most consider as the first prayer for healing. Miriam is stricken with skin eruptions as a result of her speaking against the wife of Moses. After a rather intense meeting between God, Aaron and Miriam, she is struck. Moses cries out to God “O God, heal her” (el na, r’fah na lah) This short prayer has become part of many congregational healing prayers and is often set to music.
This idea of healing becomes more important, I feel, as we age. One of the great insights of our tradition is found in the daily “Amidah” prayer where we pray “Heal us God and we shall be healed”. The prayer asks for healing, it does not ask for cure. Think about that. This ancient prayer, in some way, understood that a spiritual healing is always possible, even if a physical cure may not be.
As clergy, doctors, nurses, etc, as to their experiences with the reality of this thought. I will bet that the majority have experienced times when people do achieve a sense of spiritual healing, despite the fact that a cure is not possible. How that healing is achieved may be very personal. Yet, it is always possible. Part of it may be the ability to “let go” of past hurts. And we all know how difficult that can be! Yet, from this healing prayer of Moses, to that Amidah prayer, to our own prayers for a sense of healing, we can see that our tradition understands the psycho-spiritual aspect of healing. Healing of the body, the mind and the soul, as so many of us chant at a religious service. In many ways, this all begins with this week’s portion and the cry from Moses.
Rabbi Richard F Address