Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our Father - Our King

Send a Complete Recovery to the Sick of Your People

As we approach the New Year - the Day of Judgment, it is a time to reflect on our deeds and to do Teshuva for all our transgressions. We know the source of all life is God. It is he who determines who shall live and who shall die.

One of the most poignant prayers reflecting this thought is Nesaneh Tokef. This is a prayer recited just before the Kedusha prayer in Musaf of both Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur. It is believed to have been written by Rav Amnon of Mainz after his body was brutally dismembered by his ‘friend’ the Bishop of Mainz. Rav Amnon wrote it and uttered it just before he died on Yom Kippur day. The full story is contained in the ArtScroll Machzorim of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

We say this prayer every year. And though we are all sincere while we say it - once the Yom Tovim are over we hope and believe that God has forgiven us through our proper Teshuva. We hope and believe that we will live another year –in good health and in happiness. And then we get on with our lives.

For those who suffer from serious illness and their loved ones the possibility of death is more than just a passing thought on Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur. This prayer becomes much more meaningful for them and stays meaningful long after others break their fast post Yom Kippur.

Yesterday at about 6:00 PM CDT we received the news from the radiologist. My grandson Reuven completed a CT scan earlier this week. The cancer has returned. Ultimately the aggressive chemotherapy he had did not work. I hasten to add that this is not a death sentence. But it is obviously a major disappointment.

The options left for him are entering experimental trials of new cancer treatments and/or an oral chemotherapy that will slow down the cancerous growth. I’m not sure of the details yet. The results of the scan are being sent to renowned pediatric oncologist Dr. Leonard H. Wexler of Sloan Kettering. My daughter and son in law will then decide on the next course of treatment.

When one looks at Reuven now he is the picture of health. He is happy and well adjusted.

I suppose in part this can be explained by the fact that 6 year old Reuven does not know the extent of his illness. He has no clue what stage 4 metastatic cancer means. But he has nonetheless gone through many difficult chemotherapies and surgeries. He has suffered this torturous trek with a grace uncommon in adults let alone little children. Credit for that goes to his parents, the Jewish community of St. Louis and the wonderful hospital staff. Mostly we thank God for granting a happy and upbeat disposition to Reuven.

My family and I have nothing but pure gratitude for all the prayers said on his behalf until now by the many who have done so. But now more than ever Reuven needs our prayers.

Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing Rabbi Yaakov Perlow address the Talmidim of Skokie Yeshiva - and later the larger Jewish community. Among other things he spoke on the idea of Tzibur - the community... versus the Yachid - the individual.

He pointed out that when asking God to grant our prayers as a Yachid - an individual - we run the risk of God examining our own individual faults. But when doing it as a community the individual faults are not as closely examined. That is the advantage of a praying with a Tzibur over praying as a Yachid. A Tzibur is defined by a minimum of ten people.

Ve-Ahavtah L‘Reacha Kamocha. Ahavas Yisroel. There is an obligation to love one’s fellow Jew. This is a MItzvah of Bein Adam L’Chavero. We are obligated to Daven for our fellow Jew as well as for ourselves on the Day of Judgment.

Last Motzoei Shabbos the author of Praying with Fire, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, spoke at a local Shul and related the following.

When it comes to asking God for forgiveness and to inscribe us in the book of life, we do so not based on our own personal merit. We do not list a resume of our religious achievements and say to God, “Look at me! Look what I did for You, O’Lord. I Davened -prayed three times a say, I was Koveiah Itim – set aside times for learning every day, I did G’emilas Chasodim - kindesses for my fellow man.

No. We do not do that. We instead ask God to look at us like a father looks at a son. Aveinu Malkenu, our God our King! Chunenu V’Anenu Ki Ein Banu Maasim…favor us and answer us - for we have no merit. Aseh Imanu Tzedaka Vochesed V’Hosheainu. Treat us charitably and with kindness - and grant us salvation.

We ask that God grant us our needs as a loving father does for a beloved son!

I would add that this is also reflected by the opening prayer of the Shaliach Tzibur – the Chazan who represents us to God in prayer - our messenager sent to Daven – to pray on behalf of all of us. His prayer begins by negating any Zechus – merit - he may have. Hinnini He’Oni Memaas – Behold though I am impoverished of deeds…

Friends, I too am impoverished of deeds. I stand before God trembling and crying - praying for mercy for my family and for all of Klal Yisroel.

Rabbi Perlow said that we must Daven for all of Klal Yisroel as a loving community. I ask that when in Shul these upcoming days of awe, that we pray as a community for all of Klal Yisroel and include in your prayers my grandson Reuven Ben Tova Chaya among all the sick of Israel. Perhaps as a Tzibur, God will overlook my personal failings and grant the prayers of a Tzibur for a complete recovery - a Refuah Shelaima - for my grandson, Reuven.