This is a chapter from my next book:
Light FROM the Darkness of Illness & Disability:
What Makes Us ill What Keeps Us ill & How to Heal
by Chana Klein
A Life Lessons Story by Chana Klein
A diagnosis, an awful diagnosis.
Many of us have been through one or two or more upsetting diagnosis, either for ourselves, for our child, for our spouse, for our friend, or for someone close.
In my practice, I often must heal the emotional effects of just hearing the diagnosis before dealing with the actual illness.
We experience shock, fear, anger, grief, and other complicated reactions.
Our heads flood with confusion, with what do I do now? With Will I be able to function? Will I be ugly? This isn’t happening to me! Etc.
We fill with fear of what is, of what will be, fears that usually never get realized but still affect our health negatively.
We are awake in the dark, in the middle of the night, imagining.
We are in the shower thinking.
Between sips of a hot drink, and bites of food,
we have become preoccupied and suffer low energy because of hearing the diagnosis.
We each in our own way ask:
From where will come my help?
Psalm (Tehilim) 121
King David of our Tanach asked that very question in Psalm (Tehilim) 121
A song for ascents.
I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?
My help is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to falter; Your Guardian will not slumber.
Behold the Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your Guardian; the Lord is your shadow; [He is] by your right hand.
By day, the sun will not smite you, nor will the moon at night.
The Lord will guard you from all evil; He will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from now and to eternity.
This psalm is asking what so many of us ask when we are ill.
Where am I going to get my help?
King David writes the answer here.
The psalmist raises his eyes to the mountains and concludes
“My help comes from God. “
According to the writings, help comes from God’s personal presence in that God is with every choleh (sick person.)
This is so important for each of us to know.
It means that when I am in pain, or going through withdrawal, or burning with fever, or weak from anemia, or whatever is ailing me, the writings say that God personally stays with me.
It starts with Avraham.
God Himself personally visits Avraham when he is recovering from his circumcision.
Then God even sends three angels to him with different messages.
God is certainly paying attention to Avraham while he is ill.
But is it just for a great one like Avraham?
Or is it for each of us when we are ill that we get the actual presence of the Almighty?
According to the Torah, the Shechina (God’s presence) stays with each person who is ill.
The Gemara tells us that because God’s presence is with the sick person, a visitor is required to wear a prayer shawl when visiting.
The reason for that requirement is because entering the room of a sick person means you are entering God’s presence.
The visitor is not even allowed to sit on the bed, or on a stool, or a chair in the room of the choleh because God’s presence rests there.
From the Gemara – Nedarim 40a: One who enters to visit the sick person should sit neither on the bed nor on a chair; rather, he should wrap himself in his prayer shawl with trepidation and awe, and sit before the sick person below him, as the Divine Presence is above the head of the sick person,
as it is stated: “God will support him on the bed of illness,” and he must treat the Divine Presence with deference. Tehillim 41:4-6
The invalid, we read, has no vitality at all. It is only the divine presence that gives him life.
God Cares for Us When We Are ill
Our Torah tells us in so many places that God is with the choleh.
The Talmud shows us how God personally cares for each of us who is ill:
Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Anyone who requests that his needs be met in the Aramaic language, the ministering angels do not attend to him to bring his prayer before God, as the ministering angels are not familiar with the Aramaic language, but only with the sacred tongue, Hebrew, exclusively.
The Gemara responds: A sick person is different. He does not need the angels to bring his prayer before God because the Divine Presence is with him.
Wow! The prayer of a sick person goes straight to God.
Sometimes we don’t feel that or realize it.
But for me, it helps to know.
As Rav Anan said that Rav said: From where is it derived that the Divine Presence cares for and aids the sick person?
As it is stated: “God will support him on the bed of illness” (Psalms 41:4).
God Feeds Us When We Are ill
On top of that, it says God is the One who feeds us during our illness.
I wonder if that is why I didn’t need food when I had cancer!
Rava said that Ravin said: From where is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, feeds the sick person during his illness?
As it is stated: “God will support him on the bed of illness.”
From Where Will Come My Help?
It is clear, at least to me, that our help when we are ill (and also when we are well) is from the Almighty.
We need to be aware of that, and to not hesitate to ask Him for help.
The Gates of Tears
The sages say that ever since the destruction of the Second Holy Temple, the “gate of prayer” is closed.
But the “gates of tears” is always open.
“Every gate has been locked shut except for the gates of tears.”
Bava Metzia 59a
While God, in his eternal mercy, closed the “gate of prayer,” he left open the “gates of tears.”
This means that when we are suffering so much that we have tears, we can go to Him with our tears and know our plea is reaching Him.
We can know that we are heard.
When we cry, it is more beneficial to direct it to God, rather than to self-pity.
Have you noticed personally, that sincere tears directed to the Almighty creates change for you?
The gates of tears remaining open means that any time we are in pain, in sorrow, in fear, we can cry out to Hashem with our tears.
It means that when we cry, God heeds us.
Often healing seems impossible, as if there are no cures and no solutions.
But we ask for help, and suddenly and miraculously, help appears.
We get better!
I know terrible things happen.
They have certainly happened to me.
Read my first book if you doubt that.
But even with that, I know for sure that every time I cry out, God hears me and cares.
When I cry out with true tears, I find that things change.
The God I know wants good for us, even amid how people have the free will to hurt each other.
God watches over the sick.
He leaves a path for our tears to go straight to Heaven, when we cry to Him.
God loves you.
He is there for you.
Know that and take advantage.
My gratitude goes to Rabbi Daniel Fridman, Shlita of Teaneck Jewish Center for introducing me, during his Rambam shiur, to the concept that God stays at the head of the bed with the sick person and for providing many of the sources quoted.