“And he shall provide for healing (Exodus 21:19).” Whenever the Bible mentions the word Refuah, healing, when applied to a human being, the letter Peh always appears with a Dagesh, a dot in the center, making the consonant P, rather than F. For instance, “We tried to cure Babylon but she was incurable (Jeremiah 51:9),” when we find the word used as something being performed by God, there is no Dagesh in the Peh; the sound is P. “Heal me O God and I will be healed (Jeremiah 17:14),” has no Dagesh, in the letter; it has the soft sound of F. Another example is, “He heals the brokenhearted (Psalms 147:3).” There are many more examples.
The reason for this distinction in the spelling of the description of the applied cure is that when man, a physician, administers a cure it is apt to be accompanied by pain and suffering, whereas a cure administered by God is a painless procedure. This is part of the meaning of, “The blessing of God enriches; He does not add sorrow to it (Proverbs 10:22).” (Rabbeinu Bachya; Commentary to the Torah)
“Heal us God and we will be healed (Amidah).” Heal us directly and painlessly without having to turn to a human being for healing.
I’m not certain that I understand Rabbeinu Bachya: I have experienced soft healing and hard at the hands of human beings. I also don’t know how we can describe God’s healing as consistently soft, especially when we consider that He caused, or, at the very least, allowed us, to become ill or injured.
My recent experience sitting Shivah for my mother z”l, receiving condolences from thousands of people, taught me to look at soft and hard healing – condolences are a form of healing – in a different light.
Some people paid a Shivah call because they felt obligated; it was their job. Those were “hard” visits.
Some people came to ask forgiveness for not actively honoring our mother who had done so much for them. Those visits and calls were even “harder.”
Many came to share stories of how she had saved their lives; they wanted to honor her. Those visits were “softer.” Some of the story sharers wanted us to appreciate how much she had done for them and for others. Although the sense of loss increased as we heard how much she had done, those visits and calls were “softer.”
Then, there were the people who cried with us; they were as devastated as were we. Those visits were so gentle and caring that we all felt our shared pain softening.
Many came to cry for us; they cried when they saw us cry. They cried over our loss. They did far more than their job as comforters; their visits softened the pain.
The softest and most powerful condolence came from a woman, “K,” who spoke to me after a class: “I don’t know how you were able to teach with such clarity when it is so clear that your heart is broken. I felt that your teaching was a way of sharing your mother’s wisdom, and your determination to teach was a reflection of her strength.” K gave me a way to use my life as a way to heal. Thank you, K; you healed me with great softness – You emulated God the Healer.
God does not heal as His “job,” but as a nurturer of life; that is His softness. He heals me from this pain each time I pray, each time I learn, each time I merit to perform a Mitzvah.
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