Volume 25 Number 75
                      Produced: Thu Jan  9 22:02:48 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Prayers for the Ill
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Praying for health
         [Akiva Miller]
Tfillas Shov
         [Catherine S. Perel]
Tfillas Shov (Meaningless Prayer) (4)
         [Zev Sero, Susan Hornstein, Mark J. Feldman, Zvi Weiss]


From: <mshalom@...> (Saul Mashbaum)
Date: Wed, 08 Jan 1997 12:09:26 EST
Subject: Prayers for the Ill

I submitted the following posting a few months ago, but it didn't get
in. At Adina Sherer's suggestion, I am reposting it; many of the issues
raised are relevant to her own child's case, and in fact the original
posting was inspired in part by a conversation I had with Adina and Carl
at the end of the summer.

Also at Adina's suggestion, I am including part of a letter of her to
me, which describes her experiences.

This posting is dedicated to the full recovery of Boruch Yosef ben Adina
Batya; I'm sure MJ readers join me in my prayers for his good health
among the sick of Israel.

Saul Mashbaum

I would like the response of MJ readers to a series of questions and
observations I have on a sensitive subject - prayer (and Tehillim) for
the recovery of a sick person, particularly on the basis of a public

Does one pray for the removal of a permanent but not life-threatening
disability - blindness, retardation, paralysis? Presumably the person
himself and his immediate family can pray for this on a permanent basis,
but is it reasonable to ask others to do the same? In other words, does
prayer for the sick relate strictly to life-threatening illnesses, or
also to any disabling medical, physical or mental condition?

Some diseases are considered irreversable, and are ultimately fatal, but
the victim may be in a somewhat stable condition for years - Alzheimer's
disease, some types of cancer, CF. Does the community pray for the
recovery of such a victim, or at least for a non-worsening of his
condition, on a permanent basis?

Some questions relate to the question "When does one stop praying for
someone?". Let's say someone in the category in the previous paragraph
is hospitalized and people pray for his recovery; do they stop when he
is released from the hospital, when he reverts to the condition he was
in before the episode which caused the hospitalization, or not at all,
since the person still has an ultimately life-threatening condition?

Sometimes a person undergoes a operation to correct a serious condition,
and it will not be known for several months whether the operation was
successful (although the person has recovered from the operation
itself).  Do people continue to pray for the person until it is
determined that the operation was successful, or only until the danger
of the operation has passed?

It is understandable but unfortunate that people who make public appeals
for prayer for the ill do not make corresponding public announcements
that the public should no longer pray for person in question. There is a
concept of "tfilat shav" (vain prayer) that should be avoided.  It is
considered legitimate to pray even for a miraculous recovery of someone,
but clearly if the patient has passed away, prayer for his health is
"tefillat shav". Of course, I believe each of us would be thrilled if
after 120 years, when he appears before the heavenly court, the most
serious charge brought against him is that he prayed in vain for the
recovery of a sick person who had passed away; nevertheless, why should
a large group of well-intentioned people be lead to pray vain prayers?
The same principle applies to prayers for sick people who have recovered
from their illness.

I wish to make clear that I firmly believe in the power of prayer, and
our obligation to pray for the sick. It is well known that some rishonim
hold that the obligation to pray on a regular basis is Rabbinic
(miderabbanan), but the obligation to pray in time of distress is
Biblical (midioraita).  Precisely because of the importance of prayer
for the sick, I believe that there should be some guidelines on when it
is halachically appropriate.

May all our prayers be heard by the healer of the sick of His people

Saul Mashbaum

P.S. Adina Sherer wrote to me

>When BY was first diagnosed, all the people working with my employer
>got together and split up sefer tehillim to have it said in full each
>day for BY.  This is a MASSIVE time commitment and tircha, and we are
>very very very appreciatIve and grateful. The original commitment was
>for 3 months, which ended right after BY recovered from his last
>surgery. At the time they asked what I wanted, and, with a great deal
>of trepidation, I said they could stop saying the Tehillim. On the one
>hand, BY is by no means considered cured, or even close to being
>cured. We don't even know what exactly are the results of his last
>operation. On the other hand, we've entered a more long-term chronic
>situation, as opposed to the first 3 months when he had 6 emergency
>surgeries and multiple infections and hospitalizations, and how can I
>ask for that kind of daily tircha when BY is baruch Hashem considered
>stable and there are so many other immediate emergencies who need
>immediate help? When time are resources are limited, don't we have an
>obligation to first help the ones in the most immediately
>urgent/critical situation? And yet, BY is definitely not considered



From: Akiva Miller <kgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Jan 1997 11:42:39 -0500
Subject: re: Praying for health

Carl and Adina Sherer wrote in MJ 25:73 <<< My question is, given that
Baruch Yosef's test is a picture of an existing situation, do I need to
worry at any point that praying for the results of that test to be good
results might constitute a tfillas shov [wasted prayer]. >>>

I have often thought about various permutations of this question. This
is the answer I keep coming up with: Exactly what is meant by <<<
praying for the results of that test to be good results >>>?  I see two
separate and distinct issues to be dealt with here.

The first is that the patient should be healthy. This is clearly a
problem of praying for an existing static situation. But there is is
nothing wrong with praying that his health is *improving*, or *doesn't*
get worse. Praying for any kind of future at all - even the next few
seconds - solves this problem.

The second issue is often forgotten by most people. If the reality is
that, unfortunately, health is declining, does anyone want the test to
incorrectly show excellent health? This *does* happen on occasion. We
want the test to accurately show the bad news, so that the doctors can
deal with it properly. Similarly, even if the test *is* accurate, it's
not a bad idea to pray that the the doctors won't misinterpret the test

So it seems to me that no one should ever pray, "I hope the test shows
that he is healthy." But rather, pray "I hope that his health improves,
and that the doctors realize that."


From: Catherine S. Perel <perel@...>
Date: Wed, 08 Jan 1997 23:41:56 -0600
Subject: Re:  Tfillas Shov

Knowing little halacha, but having considerable experience as a patient,
I would say that it is only too late to pray after the first image is
taken.  The test isn't a picture of how things are, right now.  It is a
picture of how things are at the time the test is performed.  If the
tests are negative, you will assume that your prayers were pointless as
Baruch Yosef currently has no symptoms, Baruch HaShem.  But a full
recovery may be granted at any time--even as they wheel your son into
the testing room.

I once had post-surgical spinal meningitis.  After two weeks of dismal
spinal taps and apparently ineffective treatment with three different
antbiotics, the doctors told my mother to notify the family and to make
arrangments for my death.  (I was in New Orleans, but I live in Kansas.)
 I was told nothing.  I prayed the Schma when conscience--which wasn't
often--as this was the only prayer I knew.  (I converted five years
later.)  My father had just arrived in Seattle.  He drove all night to
pick up one of my sisters and then to New Orleans.  By the time they
arrived--about 36 hours later, I was out of ICU with great spinal tap
results.  So, at what point would prayer have been useless?  Only Hashem
knows when the healing took place.  So, too, with your son..or so it
seems to me.

  Cathy Perel

From: Zev Sero <zsero@...>
Date: Wed, 08 Jan 1997 02:37:30 -0800
Subject: Re: Tfillas Shov (Meaningless Prayer)

I'd think you can pray that if there is anything wrong, it should
be healed.  This would be appropriate until you find out for sure
that BH there isn't anything that needs healing.  I'd also think
it appropriate to ask that the healing happen before the test is
taken, so that he will be spared further surgery, and you will be 
spared worry.

Zev Sero		Don't blame me, I voted for Harry Browne

From: <susanh@...> (Susan Hornstein)
Date: 8 Jan 1997  18:18 EST
Subject: re:  Tfillas Shov (Meaningless Prayer) 

Carl and Adina ask about praying for the outcome of Baruch Yosef's test,
which they characterize as a snaphsot of an existing condition.  They
worry that such a tefilla would be meaningless, because the condition
already exists, and the test is simply a report of it.

I would like to make two main points.  First, the test is a report of
Baruch Yosef's condition as of the moment of the test.  It will tell
them whether the surgery was successful, but it is not a report as of
the time of surgery, or as of now.  Healing after surgery takes place
for a long time -- this is surely why the test is necessary, and the
success could not be determined during the surgery itself.

That having been said, it is clear that all tefillot would be
appropriate, up to the time of the test, and even thereafter.  Hashem,
in His infinite power, is a rofeh cholim (healer of the sick), and can
cause healing at any time, even in cases when those of average emunah
(faith) have given up.

My family and I join with the mail.jewish community and K'lal Yisrael in
praying for the complete and speedy recovery of Baruch Yosef, and of the
whole Sherer family.

Susan Hornstein

From: Mark J. Feldman <MFeldman@...>
Date: Thu, 09 Jan 1997 10:17:05 -0500
Subject: Tfillas Shov (Meaningless Prayer)

I believe that a relevant source to this issue is Bava Metziah 42a,
which states that one may pray regarding something that is hidden from
the eye ("samui min ha-ayin"), and gives an example of one who goes to
measure his grain.  So long as he hasn't measured it, he may pray that a
blessing exist in the pile of grain, since at that point the exact
amount of grain is hidden from the eye.

To reconcile this source with Brachos 54a: One should distinguish
between praying to Hashem regarding an EXISTING situation, and praying
regarding a PAST situation.  Hashem will not change the past, but will
create MIRACLES regarding the present.  One minute before one measures
grain, scientifically it does not make sense to pray, because grain is
static.  Nevertheless, the Talmud states that one does pray, because
Hashem may make a miracle to increase the grain--see Rav Dessler,
Michtav MeEliyahu vol 1 (nes v'teva).  In contrast, if something has
occurred in the past, Hashem will not go back in time and change history
(e.g., convert a girl into a boy).  (There are exceptions: Leah's prayer
to turn her son into Dinah.)

In the case of Baruch Yosef, while the test is to measure how well the
surgery went a month ago, there may still be the possibility of a
miracle, which could improve his situation (compare to the case where a
certain amount of grain grew, but we still pray that the amount
miraculously increase).  Thus, you are praying with regard to an
existing situation, not only a past situation.

The Talmud states that you may pray even as you are counting the grain;
that would seem to indicate that you could pray even during the time
that Baruch Yosef is undergoing the test.

May Baruch Yosef receive a Refuah Sheleimah in the merit of his father,
who has been so helpful to me!

Moshe (Mark)

From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Jan 1997 10:00:52 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Tfillas Shov (Meaningless Prayer)

> As many of you are aware, the Mishna in Brachos 54a gives several 
> examples of Tfillas Shov (meaningless prayers) because they are 
> prayers that relate to things that have already taken place.

 I would compare this to a different case in the Gemara.  The gemara
noes (also in Berachos) that when one goes in to measure grain, one can
say a Tefilla UNTIL the grain has been measured (at which point it is
called a Tefillas Shov ["useless prayer"]).  This is because the Gemara
states that a Beracha is/can be invoked for something hidden from the
eye.  Now, theoretically, one could ask the same question by measuring
the grain as in the case of the "procedure" in this case -- namely that
it is simply a reflection of an EXISTING situation... and, yet the
gemara is QUITE CLEAR that until the grain HAS BEEN MEASURED, it is
still OK to pray that G-d should "send a beracha" to this grain.
similarly, I would think that until the instant that they do that
procedure (including driving to the hospital, check-in, etc., etc. -- it
should be totally correct to pray over this since this is CLEARLY a
matter that (right now) is "samui min ha'ayin" (i.e, "hidden from the
eye") and which is therefore subject to receipt of a beracha.
 (and, if we know when this happens, we will tell the other people here
to say Tehillim, as well....)



End of Volume 25 Issue 75