Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 3 January 2015 / 12 Tevet 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Eighth Blessing - Part 2

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“Heal us, God — then we will be healed; save us — then we will be saved, because You are our praise.”

There is a question one can ask regarding all requests from G-d, including a request for healing. Since a person can only be sick if G-d decides so, why should a request to be healed cause G-d to heal the person?

Whatever the degree of sickness a person suffers from, he becomes more limited. When ill, praying, learning and doing mitzvot are all very difficult. Accordingly, when one asks that G-d heal us from sickness, it should be so he could serve Him better. This is implied in the reason we give for why G-d should heal us, “Because You are our praise.” G-d is praised through the Jewish People when they sanctify His name in the world through Torah and prayer. Such a request for healing can merit a merciful response from G-d, bringing about a complete healing.

Heal Us – Save Us

It is well known that man is made of body and soul. As such, a person must be concerned both with his physical and spiritual health and well-being. In fact, considering that the soul continues to live after one's physical death, one could contend that the well-being of the soul is ultimately more important than one's material well-being. According to this rationale the Sages teach that one should minimize the pursuit of vein pleasures, giving priority instead to the true purpose of being placed in this world – to serve G-d.

In light of the above we can explain the double reference to “healing” and “saving” – in the opening of this blessing. “Healing” refers to the physical body, while “saving” refers to the soul.

Regarding the soul, it is explained that G-d placed within the heart of man an inclination to follow both a direction of Divine service as well as sin. The purpose for this is to give man a challenge through which he can attain self-perfection, thereby earning a great reward in the World-to-Come. This spiritual battle within a person can be extremely difficult at times. In fact, the Talmud states that the inner desire of a person towards evil grows stronger each day. It is only with G-d's help that man can overpower his evil inclination (yetzer hara) within. So we ask G-d to “save us” by illuminating the soul from above, giving it dominion over the heart (Tanya).

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