Thanksgiving for Recovery from Infectious Illness

Image: A woman walks along a path across a green meadow. (silviarita/pixabay)

Blessed are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of all that is: all we can see, all we cannot see, all that has come before, and all that will come to be. You sat with me in my time of trouble. You listened to each cough, You felt each shiver. You walked with me through the valley of bad dreams, and You woke with me on the windswept hills of cold sweat. Eternal God, You play with the monster Leviathan and know the tiny viruses by name. You accompanied me on this journey through sickness back to health.

Thank You  for the resiliency of this human body. Thank You for this reprieve from the mystery that is death.

I know that not everyone rises from their bed; who lives and who dies is a mystery to me. Help me to see purpose in the life that spreads before me like a broad landscape; guide my steps towards goodness and light. Having experienced trouble and pain, help me to feel compassion for those in trouble and pain. Help me to turn that compassion to action to relieve the suffering that plagues so many in this world.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Creator of all that is.

Have You Had Your Flu Shot?

V0016569 Mr. Punch wrapped up in blankets in front of the fire, eatin

Image: 19th c cartoon by John Leech, “Mr. Punch has the Flu.”Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.”

4,605 people died of flu in the United States in 2014 but less than half of the adults in the U.S. were vaccinated against the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Some will say, “It’s a personal choice.” You doctor will likely say that it’s a personal choice. Your local conspiracy buff may tell you it’s all a plot.

However, under Jewish tradition, it’s a mitzvah – a commandment – that we get a flu shot unless there are strong reasons against it, such as an egg allergy.

“Where are flu shots in the Torah?” I imagine someone asking indignantly. Well, here are some places:

You shall watch your lives very well. – Deuteronomy 4:15

Torah insists that we care for our bodies, that they are gifts of God. Flu is more likely to kill infants, old people, and people with suppressed immune systems, but has also killed people in otherwise good health. Flu is mostly preventable.

When you build a new house, then you shall make a railing for your roof, so that you bring not blood upon your house, if anyone fall from there. – Deuteronomy 22:8

We are commanded not only to preserve our own lives, but to prevent death or injury to others. While this commandment specifically has to do with a roof hazard, the rabbis interpreted it to mean that anytime we become aware of a risk associated with our home or our persons, we have to do something about it. Think about the people you contact every day: are any of them very young, very old, or immunity compromised? Are any of them caretakers or visitors to such persons? Then your case of mild flu could put someone vulnerable at risk of serious illness or death.

I once worked as a chaplain in a nursing home. Someone – we never knew who – came to visit while they contagious with a slight flu. (It had to be slight, because the nurses were ferocious about visitors who looked sick.) Over the next few days, it was as if the Angel of Death flew down the hallways; resident after resident sickened and died. Likely the person who brought the bug in never knew what they had done.

I get my flu shot every year. I strongly recommend that you get yours, unless there is a very good medical reason against it. We never know whose life, whose family we might preserve.