כ״ט בתשרי ה׳תשע״ג (October 15, 2012)

Shabbat 12a-b: Praying for the Sick

On today’s daf we find a discussion about praying on behalf of a sick individual –

Rabba bar bar Ḥana said: When we would follow Rabbi Elazar to inquire about the health of a sick person; sometimes he would say in Hebrew: May the Omnipresent remember you for peace, and sometimes he would say to him in Aramaic: May the all-Merciful remember you for peace. He would say it in Aramaic when the sick person did not understand Hebrew (Rav Elazar Moshe Horovitz). The Gemara asks: How did he do this, pray in Aramaic? Didn’t Rav Yehuda say: A person should never request that his needs be met in the Aramaic language? And, similarly, 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.

Many explanations are offered for the Gemara’s assertion that angels do not understand Aramaic. Tosafot question whether this is true, arguing that angels have the ability to know people’s thoughts, so they certainly can understand a person’s statement, no matter what language he says it in. This question leads Tosafot to offer a different interpretation of Rabbi Yohanan’s comment. Rather than stating that the angels do not “understand” Aramaic, they suggest that he is saying that they do not have a high opinion of that language. Thus Rabbi Yohanan is understood to be saying that the angels will reject prayers offered in Aramaic because they see them as being of little value.

Many commentaries disagree with Tosafot’s line of reasoning. The Sefat Emet, for example, argues with Tosafot’s basic premise, and teaches that the Zohar clearly does not believe that angels know the thoughts of men unless they are specifically granted access to that information.

Previous
Next