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Author:  DT
E-mail:  not available
Date:  12/4/2003 4:40:00 PM
Subject:  Tehillim II
Message:  Message: Dear Rabbi, I looked up the sources that you quote as to why one shouldn't say tehillim for sick people. What it says in the Gemara and in Shulchan Aruch is that one may not heal a wound or a person through words of Torah, this clearly refers to an encantation that uses verses to heal. Jews throughout the years have turned to Tehillim to pray to God for mercy for all types of calamities and troubles, illness included. Hence, in any Tehillim you will find prayer for the sick printed at the end. Obviously, there is a specific prayer enacted for sick people in Shmoneh Esrei (i.e. Refaeinu); however, that does not preclude people from praying other prayers such as chapters of Tehillim in hopes of invoking Divine mercy. Thank you. DT

Reply: Then when the Gemara asked, "why are you allowed to say Yoshev Beseter," why didn't they just give your answer.
If you were around then, you could have resolved it for them.
If you look at your "statement," you'll notice the most common reasons why our religion got distorted. When learning Jewish Law, we are supposed to read the good book to find out what is expected of us. Not to justify what we are doing till now.
you say...
"What it says in the Gemara ... clearly refers to an encantation that uses verses to heal."   You browsed it real quick.

you say...
"...in any Tehillim you will find prayer for the sick ..."    Therefore it must be correct?!

you say...
"...praying other prayers such as chapters of Tehillim.."   Read the words. Are they prayers?! You might need a better understanding of Tana"ch.

We do something, it is emotional, so nobody can say anything against it. Let's just follow the rules.

Dear Rabbi, I will explain the Gemorah and the Halacha as I understand it. If I am erring, please correct me.
The Gemorah (Shavuot 15b) is discussing the ceremony of adding on territory to the City of Jerusalem or the Temple and imbuing it with the higher level of sanctity. It relates that the Leviim would sing “Yoshev B’seter” (Psalm 91), the psalm that talks about protection from plagues and mazikim/damagers. The Gemorah then digresses to say that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi would say these verses before going to sleep at night. (As an incantation to protect himself from the dangers of sleep.) The question is raised, how could he do that? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi has said himself that it is forbidden to heal oneself through words of Torah! (One may not use verses to “magically” affect healing or protective powers.) To which the Gemorah answers, one may use words of Torah for protective purposes. (Even as an incantation, as Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi did by saying Psalm 91 before going to sleep.) Then the Gemorah asks further, this implies that using a verse to heal is only forbidden, but we have learnt that one who whispers a verse over a wound, causes one to even to lose their share in Olam Haba! (clearly referring to an incantation-like healing as Rashi points out he is whispering the verse of Exodus 15:26.) So Rabbi Yochanan explains the contradiction that when he spits before the incantation he loses his Olam Haba, for we do not mention Hashem's name after spitting, but if not then it is merely forbidden. A reading of Tosfos “Assur” also clearly exhibits that the understanding of the prohibition is that of using Torah as a sort of magical formula or charm to heal.
In no way does this indicate or imply that saying Tehillim as prayer to God to heal the sick is forbidden.
Furthermore, in response to you, the fact that every Tehillim printed has prayers for the sick is a proof that the practice cannot be wrong. The whole Jewish people would not err like this. Countless holy and pious religious leaders over the past hundreds of years (at least!) pray and continue to pray for the sick. It is superfluous to point out the countless occasions where great leaders (who follow Halacha) have recited Tehillim for the sick. To suggest that they are acting improperly is ludicrous.
Regarding my understanding of Tanach, and Tehillim in particular, I find it hard not to see the countless supplications that King David uttered, and which we borrow as a vehicle to express our own feelings and prayers to God. Hence, many or most of our prayers in the siddur come from Tehillim or are paraphrased from Tehillim. So yes, there are many, many prayers in Tehillim.
I respectfully conclude that the saying of Tehillim, contrary to what you suggest, is actually of supreme benefit to the sick, and is helpful with expressing our feelings through prayer to God. There can be nothing wrong with praying to God to heal the sick and expressing it through the prayers already found in Tehillim. Halacha forbids using incantations and the like to directly cause healing by some magical power. As such, this halacha is codified in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 179 under that “rules” of Magic and Necromancy. I think the onus is upon you to explain your diversion from the plain understanding of the texts and your deviation from the accepted ways of our forefathers. Thank you.

Reply:  You won't convince me. I understand that you have a way of life to protect, and I'm sort of tearing that apart. But let's deal with reality. Drop the long speaches. If you are bringing a proof, and it takes fifty lines, it's usually because it doesn't prove much.
Again, if the Gemara agreed to your concept that Tehillim could be a prayer, why didn't it just answer for Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi simply because he was saying it as a prayer.
Additionally, if Tehillim is equivalent to praying, why was it not mentioned in the Gemara & Rishonim? It should say, "and Rav Yochanan got sick... and all the students said Tehillim, etc..." Of course there was no such thing. But you try to justify your way of life, even at the expense of twisting the Talmud a bit. Well, that was the justification for every sin in the history of the world.
Your second justification is that "everyone does it." Do I need to answer that one?!

you say....
"I think the onus is upon you to explain your diversion from the plain understanding of the texts and your deviation from the accepted ways of our forefathers. "

You have a nerve! You are the one that deviated. Where in the Tanach, Mishnah, Gemara, Rishonim, or Shulchan Aruch does it even hint to someone saying Tehillim for a sick person. What?! They didn't care about their sick. You want to force a Law in your direction, so you get disrespectful?! If Tehillim is a prayer as you suggest, then you would have to say only specific Pesukim that deal with prayers for the sick. Could it be that all the people saying Tehillim that are totally unrelated to what they're praying for are wrong?! ("To suggest that they are acting improperly is ludicrous")
The forefathers clearly didn't do it. They didn't have Payos, no Shtreimel, no Gartel, no uniforms, they studied Jewish Law, not Talmudic logic. I wonder if this Minhag (custom) wasn't borrowed from the Christians.
I see that on many sites they listbthis concept of Psalms for the sick. If it was from Judaism, why was it never mentioned?

Look at

and you'll see an example of this. You'll see that they have a very similar use of Psalms (Tehillim), and since it isn't listed in our books, it must have come from them. If you were to really know what you are saying when you read it, you'll know on your own not to use it for that.

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