Sunday, May 9, 2010

Things that Amaze Me: The Belief in the Power of Tehillim

Recently, a girl with whom I went to seminary (10+ years ago) was diagnosed with a bad illness. This made me feel really bad (for her, her kids, her husband, her family) and sad because she is truly a great person.

But what amazed me (and what amazes me in other situations) is the barrage of Facebook messages that I got (and status updates that I saw) asking people to commit to saying a number of Tehillim on her behalf.

I guess I shouldn't be so amazed. Once, a long time ago, when I was 13, and I found out that my grandfather had had a stroke, I sat on the couch in our living room reading perek after perek of Tehillim, trying really hard to focus, to concentrate so that maybe God would do something to reverse this.

But it's been a really long time since I was 13. And I can't imagine that even if I was religious now, I would believe that reading prakim of Tehillim had some sort of power to heal the sick.

Because that's what it is, right? There's this pervasive belief that these words have some deep seated power (over God?) to heal... Thus the rush to get enough people to say them so that maybe it'll do something.

And I understand the impulse or the desire to believe this completely. There's nothing worse than feeling like someone you care about is sick or dying and there's nothing you can do. This gives people a feeling of power over the situation, like they're doing something to help. That doesn't minimize my amazement, still, at how deeply people believe.

Anyway, related to this, here's my quandary. I've been asked to commit to say p'rakim of Tehillim on this girl's behalf. I obviously care very much about her, want her to know that I'm thinking of her, etc. But it feels hypocritical and rather silly to say Tehillim for her, because I don't believe it has any effect at all...

That said, it clearly means something to this girl... and it's not like it would hurt me to say it...

Not really sure how to respond.


kisarita said...

I'd say if the sick person herself asked you to do it, then do it. But if other people are asking just say "I don't think I can comitt to it."

It's a tough question, I think about it a lot.

kisarita said...

"It is the love that inspires prayer, that inspires healing"

(forget the source of the quote... will have to go look for it)

On Her Own said...

Nice quote!

I think I've found the solution: ask my mom & sisters if they are able to commit to saying the tehillim. They believe in what they're doing and those looking for people to say the tehillim are able to.