Praying for Recovery

Question

Dear Rabbi, I’m preparing a lesson for my synagogue on the concept of praying and Torah study being a merit for the well-being of someone sick. When did this practice begin and how exactly does it work? Thanks!

3 months

Answers

  1. The earliest source where praying for the sick is mentioned when Abraham prays for Avimelech (Genesis 20:17). Later in the Torah, Moses prays for the recovery of Miriam, his sister (Numbers 12:13). There are numerous other sources for this concept in the Prophets as well.

    The Talmud discusses the obligation to visit the sick and to pray for them. In fact, the implication is that if one visits but does not pray for them, one has not fulfilled the mitzvah. The obligation to pray for the sick is found in The Code of Jewish Law, which states that when praying, one should ask that this sick person be healed along with the other sick people of Israel. The central prayer in Judaism, the Shemoneh Esrei, includes a blessing in which we pray for the sick.

    How does it work? Some say that since the patient has inspired me (consciously or not) to perform a mitzvah, a commandment, and has caused the one who prays or studies Torah to draw closer to God, then the patient has direct merit as a result of the prayer. Another way of understanding this is that the one who prays is binding himself to the patient, showing concern and sharing the patient’s pain. The Divine calculation now must take into account not just the patient and his pain, but also that of all of those who are praying for him.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team