“…for I am Hashem, your Healer” (Shemot 15:26)
The triumphant Exodus from Egypt was outdone a mere seven days later by the spectacular crossing of the Sea of Reeds. Moshe then instructed the three million survivors to travel into the Wilderness of Shur. For the next three days they travelled but could not find water to drink. After they arrived at Marah the waters were too bitter for consumption and so the people broke down and complained to Moshe. Hashem instructed Moshe to take a tree that was bitter tasting and toss it into the bitter waters. Miraculously, adding bitter to bitter produced sweet-tasting, drinkable water. A few precious Torah commandments were given to Moshe and then Hashem declared, “If you listen diligently to the voice of Hashem … and observe all His decrees, then any of the diseases that I placed on Egypt, I will not bring upon you, for I am Hashem your healer” (Shemot 15:26). Hashem, in effect, declared Himself as the Healer of Israel.
Hashem is actually the Healer of All — why then declare Himself the Healer of Israel?
In our morning blessings we say that Hashem girds Israel with might — i.e., we are the only ones who separate our upper body from our lower half in His service. Additionally, Hashem glorifies only Israel by covering our heads with a distinguished headpiece, e.g., our kippah and scarf. In these unique aspects it is correct to designate “Israel” as the recipient of Hashem’s beneficence.
In the Amidah, the question is glaring. We say “Rofei cholei ammo Yisrael — Who heals the sick of His nation Israel.” We don’t have an exclusive on recovery from illness and injury! To strengthen our question, in the blessing said after expelling waste from our bodies we say “rofei kol basar — Who heals all flesh” — inclusive of everyone, even those not from the Children of Israel.
What is it about the “healing of Israel” that is unique to the Jewish people and not to the other denizens of planet Earth?
Naturally, we see two separate paths to healing. One is the natural course whereby the body uses the self-healing powers instilled in us by Hashem. The second path is utilizing human healers who use the knowledge and the tools at their disposal. These two paths to recovery are available to all and it is to these means that we refer in our blessing “rofei kol basar.”
When a Jew is the patient there is a third path to recovery. S/he may choose to allow the body to heal itself, or turn to medical professionals to use their tools to bring about recovery. The Jew may also turn to Hashem in prayer and beg that He be the One to pay special attention to the case and act in His role of “the Healer of Israel.” With this path, miraculous intervention is a possibility.
A young adult was very ill with an aggressive form of a blood disease. After a long battle he went into remission, yet the doctors recommended that he undergo a bone marrow transplant to develop an entirely new blood system. Failure to do so, they predicted, would result in a return of the cancer, which would almost definitely be fatal. Although he was too weak to undergo the transplant, the doctor suggested they proceed because waiting was too dangerous. The procedure was successful and the young man eventually was able to return home to his family.
About a year after discharge the young man’s father had cause to visit the hospital and stopped by to thank the staff who did so much for his son. The head nurse asked to see a current picture and the happy dad pulled out his phone. The nurse was so happy to see the healthy young man smiling and holding hands with his two children.
She said, “You know, when patients come to our unit, no one is told the prognoses to insure that everyone is given maximum care and attention. I, however, get the details of the prognoses. It is amazing to me that the Jewish people can pray and miracles occur. Dad, let me now tell you what I never told you before — This is a miracle!”
The father smiled and thought to himself, Yes, it is a miracle, but Hashem promised us that for the Jewish people, medical miracles will always be natural! He is the Healer of Israel.