No Prayers for Heaven

SpeakWhen a metzora leaves the camp, he declares, “Impure! Impure!” Vayikra 13:45 He informs everyone about his condition of suffering as he exits the camp, in order for the community to respond and daven for him and ask that he be cured.

Why is a metzora different from any other person who is ill, in that he must inform the community about his condition and ask that they daven on his behalf? In fact, the rule is that the prayers of the person who is ill are more cherished to God than the prayers of anyone else who may be davening on his behalf. (see Rashi, Bereshis 21:17) Therefore, we should have expected an emphasis to be placed upon the prayers of his own self, rather than the fact that he appeals to others to daven for him.

Yalkut HaUrim answer this question based upon the Zohar. “…It is because his prayers are closed off from ascending to the heavens.” The metzora caused damage with his mouth by engaging in evil slander. Therefore, measure for measure, his verbal requests to God are banished. The metzora must appeal to the community at large to daven for him because his ability to daven for himself has become impaired.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Calling out for help”
Chullin 78

Thinking has a profound effect. So does not thinking.

A mind obsessed with yesterday’s travesties, today’s aches and pains, and tomorrow’s dark clouds, creates problems where none exist. It transforms daydreams into realities, molehills into monstrosities, innocent creatures into venomous snakes. All the more so when such words pass the lips into the tangible world we all share.

That is why simply turning your back to those thoughts is such a powerful form of healing—for every sort of illness. Distract your mind to good thoughts, productive thoughts, thoughts of confidence in the One who made you, and especially thoughts of Torah.

Heal your mind and heal your soul. You will heal your body as well.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Power of Not Thinking”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” -Buddha

We see here that we are both what we think and what we do. Often, we excuse our “bad thoughts” such as unkind (internal) comments about family and friends, our true feelings about the person who just cut us off in traffic, and our opinions about various public figures in the realms of politics and entertainment. We excuse these thoughts because we did not actually give them voice or, if we did, the object of our thoughts, feelings, and words could not hear us.

James, the brother of the Master, laments that “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8) and Paul states that we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Do we? We see the consequences of failing to do so, at least among the ancient Israelites, in Leviticus 13:45 and the commentary for Chullin 78 that the prayers of one who slandered are “cut off from heaven”. What a horrible fate for someone in dire need of God’s help. That person becomes dependent on the kindness and forbearance of others, perhaps the very same people who he or she has injured, for the prayers that will ascend to God and provide for their healing.

What do you think about? What occupies your thoughts? Even when contemplating the things of God, is it within the context of doing His will and uplifting others, or are you condemning and cursing others vainly in His Name? Are you even paying attention to where you are and what you are doing right now, or are your thoughts consumed with visions of the future, “end time prophesies” (which are all the rage these days in certain circles), and matters over which you have absolutely no control?

If you see someone hungry, do you feed them? If you see someone shivering in cold, do you provide them with adequate clothing? If someone is sick, do you visit them? If someone is downhearted, do you give them good news?

That’s what’s happening here and now. That is the focus of our lives as people of faith. These are matters that are worthy of our thoughts. Words of encouragement and compassion are the messages that need to be leaving our tongue.

Every day; every hour we make a decision about who we are and how we are to express ourselves. While a tree is known by the fruit it produces, the “seed” of our fruit as human beings begins with a single thought. Then that thought springs into action.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. –James 3:9-12

This morning, with what thoughts and words will you choose to occupy your day? What choices will you make tomorrow morning and beyond? Because of your choices, will your prayers ascend to heaven?

Addendum: Please keep in mind that the relationship between metzora and slander is midrash and cannot be specifically derived from the scriptural text. I’m using it here for its value as a metaphor rather than as a statement of fact.

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