Intermediaries to G-d
Moshe Ben-Chaim
I had a question regarding your article on Rabbis Blessings. If that is the true idea, (that people have no powers) what is the meaning behind the gemora in Baba Basra 116a that if a person has a sick person in his house he should go to a chacham and ask him to pray for the choleh (invalid)? I thought there are no intermediaries. Additionally, the concept of seeking a wise man to assist a sick person doesn't seem to fit the concept of the bracha as explained in the article.
I would first define the use of this term "intermediaries". This term I believe refers to one who directs his prayer to one other than G-d. In distinction, one who approaches another to beseech G-d, as not an act of using an intermediary to reach G-d. Here, one is merely asking another person to do an act. He is not praying to a person, or another besides G-d, and hence, no error has occurred.
To return to your comments, you are correct. There are two distinct ideas reflected by the two gemoras. The article was addressing the accepted notion that people can make changes in nature independent of G-d's intervention. Conversely, the case with your quoted gemora deals with a different topic, the concept of seeking a wise man to assist the sick. I will explain the difference.
Regarding the former, we see that Moses was involved somehow in miracles. However, Moses prayed to G-d and was not effectuating natural change independent of G-d. Saadia Gaon states this in his book, "Beliefs and Opinions". All true philosophers adhere to this concept that G-d alone has power over nature.
Regarding the gemora about seeking a wise man to help the sick, you are correct. There aren't intermediaries. Judaism does not hold of the idea of praying to anyone beside G-d, or using an intermediary to reach G-d. But we do see instances where a person besides the individual in need is sought out to beseech G-d, as in your quoted gemora, and also in connection with Miriam, when smitten with leprosy.
The question is, why does the gemora support this? Shouldn't the ill person be the one praying?
In the case of when Miriam received leprosy for speaking against her brother Moses, again, another (namely Moses) is approached to intercede on her behalf. Why didn't Miriam, or Aaron approach G-d directly to pray for Miriam's cure? From the fact that Moses prayed for Miriam, we see there was a correct concept guiding him. What is this concept? Additionally, why does the gemora in Baba Basra state that a "chacham", a "wise man" should be consulted, as opposed to a tzaddik?
The reason I believe a chacham is required - and not a tzaddik - is that only a wise man is able to identify a problem, namely, why G-d had brought this person close to death. A tzaddik is not necessarily a chacham, so he is not able to identify the problem. It is evident that some sin had brought this illness upon the person, and as of yet, the sickly individual could not discover his wrongdoing, and therefore remained sick. Job as well remained in his state of physical distress until Elihu informed him of his error. It was this new concept which raised Job to a level on which G-d could now relate to him and heal him.
What is crucial, is that the chacham will be able to discuss matters with the sick person, discern what the person's flaw is, and communicate his error to him. This newly gained knowledge about himself will raise him to the level where G-d will intercede to remove the illness. This will be his real shield against his current ill fate. As the gemora states, "it is not the snake who kills, but the sin". Additionally, the chacham's request for mercy from G-d is more likely to be heeded, as now, the chacham has communicated the error to the invalid, and bases his prayer on this.
It should be cited equally that the Meharsha holds that a wise man actually prays for the atonement for the invalid's sin, and G-d removes the decree of death on the invalid.
But where do we see that Miriam gained new knowledge to raise her level and act as a cure? We see that G-d had admonished both Miriam and Aaron, and informed them of their mistake regarding their level of prophecy. But although this was corrected, G-d saw that Miriam was still in need of leprosy to diminish her self overestimation. I am certain that G-d's words of admonition were heard well by Miriam, as G-d would not have stated them if they would be useless, especially to one as perfected as she. Moses' involvement then becomes the question. If Miriam had what she needed (namely, new insight into herself) to repent, what was Moses prayer adding?
There are a few questions we still need further attention in the case of Miriam:
1) If G-d said that "His anger burned against both Miriam and Aaron", why doesn't the passage indicate that Aaron was equally smitten with leprosy? The commentators say Aaron had been smitten as well, but the question is why the Torah conceals this.
2) Why didn't Aaron pray instead of asking Moshe to pray?
3) Interesting, passage 10 says that "and the cloud removed from the tent, Miriam was as leprous as snow". Why then does the passage need to tell us that "Aaron then turned to Miriam, and (he saw) that she was leprous"? What is this adding? The passage already told us her state. What it must be adding then is not information about her state, but information about Aaron.
4) Why should Miriam be healed? Isn't t'shuva, (repentance) needed?
I believe t'shuva was being effectuated by Miriam's enduring her state as a leper. The Or HaChaim states that Aaron's "turning" is to be understood as turning "from his own state of leprosy", as he was healed as soon as the cloud lifted, whereas Miriam remained a leper longer. But this area regarding Miriam's and Aaron's sin needs to be further clarified.

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