I am saddened today to learn that one of our greatest sages in Israel is now in the second most dangerous stage of the coronavirus.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is the 92 year old chief Rabbi of the non-Chassidic ultra-orthodox Jewish community, leader of the Lithuanian (Litvak) form of Jewish worship, a world-renowned scholar and a religious Zionist.
He is beloved by tens of thousands of normal orthodox Jews who follow his guidance in their daily worship practices and habits.
As a non-ultra religious Jew (Conservative or modern orthodox) I add his name to the list of the ill for whom I pray daily and I encourage all Israeli Jews from secular and beyond secular to mention a few simple words during the course of a day.
“Please God, send healing to Rabbi Chain Kanievsky”, or “Dear God, be merciful to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and restore him to improved health and more years of life”.
I am and have always been a strong advocate of personal prayers from the heart. If they are sincere prayers, I am assured that God hears and responds. Often, His responses are not the ones we have wished for but at the very least, His response is an indication that He has heard our prayerful requests.
For too long in our national history we have been “imprisoned” by the ultra-orthodox party supported by prime minister Netanyahu in gratitude for their 100% of misguided support for him. Without the ultra-orthodox votes he could not stay in power. Perhaps for that reason I do not pray for the good wishes of members of the ultra-orthodox Chassidic members in the government.
They are steeped and embedded in 16th and 17th centuries mentality passed down by the Baal Shem Tov who prayed on mountain tops and by streams of water, a naturalist who worshipped God in the nature of his surroundings rather than in synagogues.
While my mother’s family were Belzer chassidim (fortunately, not my mother), my father’s family were devout Litvaks and they, like my father, prayed every day in synagogues. I have adopted my life in the Litvak tradition and am comfortable in the recitation of their form of prayer.
I have never met Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky but I hold his name and his life-work in highest esteem.
As he lies now on a hospital bed facing imminent death from the coronavirus, I pray that our Merciful God will bless him, will give him renewed strength and will enable the physicians to find the best ways of removing him from the danger of death to a restoration of improved health and more days of life to the benefit of all of the Jewish people living in the State of Israel.
Ultra-orthodox as he may be, he understands the human heart, soul and mind and does not disdain anyone whose beliefs and practices differ from those to which he himself adheres.
Like the world renowned Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, his heart is open to all Jews regardless of their religious convictions or lack thereof.
It is such scholars who are revered, honored, respected and loved by all our people, not only by the followers of their orthodox beliefs.
Please find it in your hearts as you walk or sit in your home to open your lips and recite a few very simple words asking Almighty God to restore Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky to strength and to more life.
As you pray for him, the God who hears prayers will in turn bless you and your families for your deed of kindness.
Let the imminence of his death depart for now. The malach hamavet, the angel of death, has time to wait.