Our sages teach that before the time of the prophet Elisha, no one ever recovered from a mortal disease. Through the power of prayer, Elisha was the first man to recover from a mortal disease, and so he set the path for all to recover. Later, king Hezekiah–whose name means “Divine strength”–when about to die (at the word of the prophet Isaiah), prayed to God from the depths of his heart and succeeded in nullifying the prophetic decree. He merited that fifteen more years were added to his life.
After the sin of the golden calf–the archetypal sin of the Jewish people, equivalent to the primordial sin of Adam and Eve–Moses besought God that He pardon the sin (the word in Hebrew for “pardon,” mechal is cognate to “sickness,” chal), that He heal the diseased spirit of the people:
And Moses besought [vayechal, ] God, his God, and said:
Why, O God, do You direct Your wrath against Your people….
Here, the word “besought,” a synonym for prayer, is cognate to the word for “sickness.” Our sages learn from this etymological equivalence that Moses prayed so hard to God to forgive the sin of the people that he became physically sick with fever. From this we may infer that in sickness itself lies the inherent ability to undergo self-transformation, from illness to well-being, and all through the power of prayer.
In conclusion, just as sickness can serve to transform weakness into strength, so does it transform bitterness into sweetness.
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