In this week’s parshah, it states: “Yisrael bowed towards the head of the bed” (47:31). Did Yaakov Avinu bow to his son [Yosef]? Rashi explains: Yaakov Avinu turned himself toward the head of the bed. Based on this, our Sages taught (Shabbos 12b): “The Shechinah resides above the head of an ill person.”
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that, just being sick, in itself, doesn’t bring the Shechinah, but rather that Hashem is felt to be present when a human being is asking hard questions about life, looking deeply into his or her own soul, and struggling to do the right thing. It’s the wrestling with the conscience that opens up this level of spirituality, not the illness, which just gives us a chance to do the thinking. Even a very evil person has thoughts of t’shuvah in this time [i.e., upon a sickbed]. (Source: Iturei Torah)
The Midrash states: “From the day that heaven and earth were created, people did not become sick. A person might have been walking in the market, he would sneeze, and his soul would leave his body through his nostrils. Jacob requested mercy: ‘Master of the Universe, do not take my soul until I have instructed my children and the members of my house.’ Hashem acceded to the request... That is why one wishes a person ‘life’ when he sneezes” (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer ch. 52).
The Midrash further explains that, from the beginning of B’reishis until the time of Yaakov Avinu, people did not become ill before they died. The word choleh (sick) was not mentioned. There was no alarm set to remind a person of his transient status on this earth. It was Yaakov Avinu who asked Hashem to bring illness to the world instead of someone just dying. Yaakov had to ask Hashem, as a show of mercy, to bring illness so that a person could put his affairs in order and as an impetus for self-introspection and evaluation. Hashem agreed to Yaakov’s suggestion and declared that He would start with Yaakov. Yaakov was therefore the first one to become sick.
List of People Who Need a r’fuah sh’leimah (a complete recovery)
Please recite Psalms 20, 30, 88, 121, and 130.
Meir ben Malah
Shmaryahu ben Reizel Shoshanah Miriam
Yisrael ben Reizel Shoshanah Miriam
Shia Herschel ben Sosha
Moshe ben Sarah Yehudis
Mordechai ben Evlyn
Yitzchak Isaac ben Devorah
Yosef ben Sarah
Aharon Yaakov ben Caryn
Tziporah bas Fruma
Bluma bas Etel Rivkah
Esther Hadassah bas Devorah
Henya bas Brachah Devorah Leah
Brachah Bryna Luba bas Chanah
Udel bas Chayah Rivkah