Friday, March 17, 2006

Is it permitted to say Tehilim for a sick person?

R.Harry Maryles on Emes Vemunah posted about Tefillah for a sick person http://haemtza.blogspot.com/ . I commented quoting Rambam in Hilchos Avoda Zara 11:12 who after forbidding to say pessukim from the Torah for physical relief quite vehemently, saying that not only is that considered magic it also includes the one who does it among Koferim in the Torah! because the words of the Torah are supposed to heal the Nefesh and not the Body. He then continues
"avol habori shekoro pesukin o mizmor mitilim kedei shetogen olov zechus kerioson veyinotzel mitzoros unezokim harei zeh mutar." A healthy person who reads verses or a poem of Tehilim so that he should be protected by the Zechus of reading, that is permitted. Note that there is no way that someone is allowed to read for another person. It is only permitted to say it for oneself.

Clearly Rambam does not allow for any magical incantations and he considers saying Tehilim for a sick person as possible Kefirah. (I say "possible" although Rambam is quite clear that it is, because I am wary of pointing at so many Jews who are nichshal in this unfortunately). It is very difficult to adhere to this prohibition as we have been so conditioned to accept it. In my mind though any mishap that a person experiences and it can be traced to a misdeed, and I mean traced to one rationally, then Tehilim would be appropriate. I as a businessman if a business deal goes bad, I usually can trace it to a decision that was based on greed or some other such reason. It is appropriate for me to read Mizmorim that deal with the greed and meditate on how to improve myself in the future. But a sickness that is not a result of the person's actions I do not see any reason that Tehillim is permitted.

I also pointed out that, even when healthy, one can only say pessukim for himself . The Meiri in Hibur Hateshuva explains why on the Yomim Noroim a Ba'al Tefila Hogun is required. He asks in general what is the idea of praying for someone else? The Rabbis tell us that when one prays for a friend the petitioner is answered first - why should praying for another have any value? He says that the idea is that we cannot tell a suffering person directly to take heed and review his actions. It would be very hutful, blaming the victim. However that person will not be helped unless he introspects and mends his ways so that he does not repeat the same mistake again.We do this indirectly by showing through our own prayer that we are looking at ourselves as that will encourage the sufferer to introspect too. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we look to the Ba'al Tefila to be a role model for the Tzibur on how to pray and do teshuva. ( No wonder Hibur Hateshuva is not a central sefer mussar in Yeshiva - In fact I never heard about it until I was pointed to it by an article I read by Moshe Halbertal). (to be exact the part explaining the Ba'al tefila is from Chibur Hateshuva- the part about the sick person I saw in a sefer of the same school - I could not find it now but it fits nicely with Meiri's thinking)

Now to say a Mi sheberach for a choleh and especially with name of patient and mother, to me that is totally nonsensical and probably ossur completely. Now I know that many other possekim think differently, but as everybody is machmir on every little sfek sfeka of a minhag by a little known possek , I indulge in being machmir in a vaday Avoda Zara according to Rambam.

15 comments:

  1. my understanding of how it works is that you are trying to make yourself better person and in that Zchus the sick person gets a better.So the more tefilos for the sick person the more zchus. that's why the larger the crowd the better

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  2. How can me making myself better help the other person? What is Zechus other than self improvement? If I improve myself what does it do for the other?
    It is interesting how irrational and superstitious ideas are considered religious and whoever disagrees is suspect.

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  3. "How can me making myself better help the other person?"

    if they inspired you to make yourself better?

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  4. >if they inspired you to make yourself better?

    So a guy saying Tehilim in NY for a choleh in Yerushalayim inspires the choleh to improve? Lets call a spade a spade it is superstition.

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  5. It is the other way around.
    The sick person inspires those who say Tehilim to improve since the person saying the Tehilim would not be doing it if not for that sick person.

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  6. So it is a mussar for the healthy. Why say tehilim thinking that it helps the choleh? I dont think any tehillim sayer sees it as mussar haskel for himself. Why not present it as such?

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  7. "( No wonder Hibur Hateshuva is not a central sefer mussar in Yeshiva - In fact I never heard about it until I was pointed to it by an article I read by Moshe Halbertal)"

    I think this would go over just fine with the average yeshiva guy.

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  8. What do you think of orphans saying kaddish btw.

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  9. Kaddish is probably for the survivors as is Hesped. I need to think about it. I am learning Hil Evel in one of my chavrusos but have not yet tackled that.I raed Kaddish by Wiesseltier a long time ago but came away quite confused about what he tried to say.

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  10. "I raed Kaddish by Wiesseltier a long time ago but came away quite confused about what he tried to say."

    so did I but I did grasp that he wanted to sound like Elie Weisel while he said it.

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  11. I attended a lecture by Wieselthier in Toronto recently on the topic of Moshiach. He reserved his harshest comments for the Chabad "second coming" perspective. He said that, in his opinion, talk of a second coming is worse than eating chazir and does great harm.

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  15. If you want an intellegent, sourced analysis of this topic... http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/753683/Rabbi_Aryeh_Lebowitz/Ten_Minute_Halacha_-_Saying_Tehillim_for_a_Choleh

    ReplyDelete