Image: A footprint in the sand on the beach. (pixabay)
I just took an unpleasant little trip down memory lane, but with good news at the end of it. I’ve been dealing all summer with a minor foot problem, and avoiding the podiatrist. I knew I was avoiding him, rather as one might avoid the dentist. Today I finally got to the office, and as soon as I saw the big chair featured in podiatrists’ offices, all the memories came flooding back.
In March and June of 1985 I had surgery for bunions. The podiatrist-surgeon had an excellent reputation and the bunions had become a real barrier to a goal of mine: I wanted to run a marathon, but I couldn’t push off with the front part of either foot. So I went to this nice doc who said he could fix it, and I fell down a rabbit hole that would completely change my life.
I’ll spare you the details; the gist is that my mangled left foot is one of the reasons the rest of my body has troubles. I have stayed away from podiatrists’ chairs ever since my recovery from the final salvage surgery in 1988. I sat in that chair today, and I held Linda’s hand to keep memory at bay.
But here’s the lovely thing: today’s meeting with the doc was no big deal. My left foot, the mangled foot, had coped nicely with the splinter that had driven deep into it. My immune system swatted away any infection. The life force within me packaged up a long splinter that had gotten in there and had done such a good job sliding it back out that all the doc had to do was take a forceps and pull. My body works.
Back in rabbinical school, there was a prayer that used to make me angry and/or sad to say it as part of the daily prayers. It went:
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, who formed the human body with wisdom and placed within it a miraculous combination of openings and organs. It is evident and known before Your honored throne, that if only one of them should be opened or blocked at the wrong time, it would be impossible to exist and stand before You. Blessed are You, Eternal One, the healer of all flesh and worker of wonders.“Asher Yatzar,” Shacharit
It was the “stand before You” that annoyed me – my body was steadily losing its ability to stand without pain in those years, until I finally rewrote the prayer:
Thank God it all works! — No. —
Thank God enough works.
For all our science, and all our technology,
These bodies You have made in Your wisdom are wrapped in mystery: Rooms within rooms, openings and closings,
All work so wonderfully that we only notice when they don’t.
We are able to stand or sit before You, our Creator,
Because enough works today.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time and Space,Asher Yatzar, Ruth Adar, 2004
Who heals our flesh and continues doing wonders.
And I say that revised prayer today in gratitude, because the foot still has its problems, but the beautiful systems within me continued to function on other levels. And that was enough, praise God.
I know – so much fuss over a splinter! Ridiculous. But such is the power of bad memories. If there is some health matter you’ve been putting off out of dread I hope you will attend to it as soon as you can.
5 thoughts on “A Prayer for the Body: Take Two”
This was just the blog I needed today! Thank you! Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi!
May you receive the healing you seek, Denise! Shabbat shalom!
Wow, Rabbi, what a rotten thing to have happened to you, back in the ’80s. So glad you forced yourself to get that splinter out.
Your rewritten prayer is just right; when Mishkan Tefillah has a second edition, it should include your rewrite.
That rewritten prayer has found its way into a number of congregational prayer books, Maureen. I don’t think another version of Mishkan Tefilah in on the horizon, but I appreciate the thought.
It was a pretty rotten thing, but it set me on the path to the person I am today. No regrets.
Hi Rabbi – I haven’t been on your blog in a long time (or anyone else’s for that matter), and it’s refreshing to be back. Asher Yatzar is a wonderful prayer in it’s traditional and updated versions. A few years ago, I took on saying that blessing every day at what one might say is the appropriate moment. I have the Chabad laminated sheet next to the toilet. Anyway, thanks for all you do to make Judaism more accessible and meaningful. Shabbat shalom.