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Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
November 08, 2007
© Rabbi Jack Moline

As it happens, we managed to discuss this word on the Shabbat following the "goyishe Purim," Halloween. On this holiday, children come home overloaded with candy, and if they eat too much of it, they need visits to both physician and dentist.

So it is an interesting circumstance that the root of "cholim" has two meanings: sick and sweet. Each of them implies a weakening of some sort. Sickness weakens the body and sweetness weakens the bitterness with which it is mixed.

I find it remarkable that we remember the sick and infirm in the midst of our daily worship. After spending the first section of the Amidah establishing God's place in history and then launching into an exploration of God's power over nature and even death, the first really tangible evidence of God in our lives the one most people can be presumed to have experienced is God as the healer of the sick.

It is no small thing that we pause in the midst of this empowering sweep of ideas to take note of those who are weakest among us. As I already mentioned, simple illnesses were much more serious, even life-threatening not so many generations ago. Even if we address infections and diseases with greater effectiveness today, the number of people we know who suffer from assaults on their health among our circle of friends of family is often astonishing. How reassuring to affirm that God is able and responsible! to cure the sick before we begin to express gratitude for blessings, ask for grace and favor or call for wrath against our oppressors.

The images of God raising the fallen and healing the sick are powerful, but the most remarkable aspect of God's power is yet to be expressed.

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