The psalmist asks, “mai ayin yavo ezri?” from where will my help come? And he answers his own question:”ezri yavo mi Hashem, oseh shamayim va’aretz”…my help shall come from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.
Judaism supports the benefits of prayer. For the sick we recite selections from the Book of Psalms. In addition we make the prayer of Mi She Bairach… He who has blessed…adding the name of the sick person by his/her Hebrew name and the name of the mother who gave him/her birth.
I believe that prayer and recitation of psalms is soothing and comforting to one who recites them. But I am not convinced of the efficacy of prayer. God does not send disease nor does He alone heal it. He has His partners, the physicians and surgeons, to whom He has given the blessed skill to heal when possible.
My sainted wife died one week before Rosh Hashanah in September 2016 after suffering for nine months from pancreatic cancer. We prayed together, morning and evening, for God’s mercy. But evidently He was determined to give her the final kiss before her soul expired.
I have not yet recovered from my great loss. I know that I never will. Therapy was comforting but of little real help. Time does not heal all wounds, contrary to those who believe it does.
And now, only a few days ago, I was informed that my only brother, six years younger than I, has been diagnosed with renal carcinoma, kidney cancer, which has metastasized into his brain. The prognosis is not good…a few more months, possibly up to a year at best.
I lack the strength to endure the mental suffering. And while I pray to God for help and mercy, I am aware that while all things may be “b’ydai shamayim”… in the Hands of Heaven…it is to the oncologists and medical and nursing teams that I place my hope.
As for myself, I do not fear dying. But I do fear death. A dying person can be medicated and relieved from pain, can usually be surrounded by loving family and friends, can converse and make his words known. But death is final. No longer can we see, embrace, caress our beloved survivors. No more can we hear the sweet sounds of their voices. Death is the permanent end of life. Only the grave awaits us.
I don’t know who invented the thought of “techiyat ha maitim”…the resurrection of the dead. The dead cannot rise up from their final resting places. The prophet Ezekiel believed in it when he beheld the valley of dead bones. All Christians believe in the resurrection of the body of the teacher from Nazareth.
Believing may be comforting and may re-inforce one’s faith. But I know of no one who has risen up from the grave once pronounced dead and buried.
I sit and I mourn for a dead wife and for a living brother who awaits a visit from the malach ha mavet, the dreaded angel of death who visits all of us in our time.
“Nachamu nachamu ami”… comfort ye, comfort ye my people. Loving and caring words. But words alone cannot bring comfort. That is why we Jews have a requirement to sit shiva…a seven day period of intense mourning when visitors come to take our hands and without words, to offer condolences.
The very presence of caring people who come to share our grief and sorrow is the best medicine.
But when all is said and done, we return to the words of David the psalmist: “from whence cometh my help? My help comes from the Lord my God, maker of heaven and earth.”
I do not know what heaven is like but for my remaining years I would prefer to spend them here on earth.
If anyone has returned from beyond this universe, please let me know.