A Time to Heal

Posted on January 13, 2021

by Hazzan Barbara Barnett

“R’fa’einu Adonai v’nei’rafei
Hoshieinu v’ni’va’sheiah”

We recite these words in every weekday Amidah—a prayer for healing: “Heal us, Adonai, and we shall be healed. Save us and we shall be saved.” We then we ask God to grant “refuah shleima,” perfect healing, for all our afflictions.

Over the course of the pandemic, I have paused a moment at this blessing each morning and evening, thinking about those I know personally who are afflicted with COVID (that list seems to be growing by the day). Since election day (and even more so this past week in light of the events at the Capitol last Wednesday), I’ve been thinking about this Amidah blessing in a more societal sense.

We say (both in this blessing and in the Misheberach prayer we recite at the Torah) “Refuat hanefesh u’refuat haguf” (heal the spirit and the body—the seen and the unseen wounds and illnesses).

How do you go about healing a wounded country? Heal we must, but it’s not as easy as saying a prayer and hoping for the best. The healing process will be messy and rocky, difficult and very challenging. But, the process begins within each of us, a commitment to V’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” as the Torah says. Or in the words of Rabbi Hillel “What is hateful to you, don’t do to anyone else.” These are the essence of Torah, the essence of the moral wisdom embodied in the commandments. It’s easier said than done and ultimately cannot be accomplished without being intertwined with justice.

It starts with us as individuals (hey, God can’t do it alone) and, like ripples in a pond, resonates to family, to community and beyond. Rabbi Menachem Creditor wrote a simple, but evocative song—a prayer, really, for his infant child in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. (You can see him sing it here) It is equally meaningful and profound in the aftermath of last week, as we pray for a peaceful transfer of power and for the new administration:

Olam Chesed Yibane

I will build this world with love
And you must build this world with love
And if we build this world with love
Then God will build this world with love.