In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer we say: “You are eternally mighty, Hashem; You revive the dead, and are powerful to save.” Later, in a following beracha we say, “You heal the sick of Your nation Israel.” These two berachos appear to be in the wrong order. The revival of the dead is a future event, and should be listed among the prayers for Moshiach and the Beis HaMikdash. The prayer for the recovery of the sick should come first, among the prayers for our worldly needs, such as livelihood and wisdom.
To answer to this question, we must distinguish between two categories of sick people. The first category includes those that have a hope of recovery according to the natural order of creation. Although a person is deathly ill, the doctors may still feel that they have a chance to save him through surgery or medicine.
The second category includes those who are beyond the healing powers of medicine. The doctors relinquish hope in their recovery, since according to the known laws of nature the patient is beyond assistance. Even so, the patient is not yet dead. His soul is still within his body, and although the doctors might think otherwise, there is still hope for his recovery.
The Ropshitzer Rebbe zt”l once remarked that when the Hebrew year has two months of Adar, the likelihood of Hashem’s miraculous intervention is twice as great. Adar in Yiddish means vein. As long as blood still flows through one’s veins, we can still hope for Hashem’s salvation. When there are two Adars, our hope is twice as great.
There is great wisdom in this apparently light-hearted observation. As long as the soul still rests within a man’s body, he is not yet dead. However sick he may appear, he can still hope for a full recovery that borders on Techias HaMeisim, a resurrection from the dead.
The Gemara states as follows:
After a prolonged drought, Rebbe declared a fast day in which the community gathered to beseech Hashem for mercy. Rebbe Chiya and his sons led the community in prayer.The commentaries on this Gemara point out that in the beracha that Rebbe Chiya and his sons recited, the revival of the dead is mentioned both before and after the winds and the rain:
“(Hashem) makes the wind blow,” they prayed, and the wind began to blow.
“(He) makes the rain fall,” and the rain began to fall. As they began to say, “(He) revives the dead,” the world began to shudder.
A voice in Heaven then called out, “Who has revealed My secrets to the world?”
“It was Eliyahu,” another voice replied. Eliyahu was then punished with sixty fiery lashes. An angel in the form of a fiery bear then appeared in the shul and shocked Rebbe Chiya, thus disturbing his concentration and stopping his prayers.
You are eternally mighty, Hashem. You revive the dead and are powerful to save. You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall. You sustain the living with kindness, and revive the dead with great mercy. You support the falling, heal the sick, release the imprisoned, and fulfil Your promise to those who sleep in the dust. Who is like You, O Master of mighty powers? Who is like You, O King who takes and grants life and causes salvation to sprout? You are faithful to revive the dead. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who revives the dead.
Why did the world not shudder with the first mention of the revival of the dead? The Ritva explains that the first mention of the revival does not refer to those who had actually died, but rather to the sick people who approach the gates of death and miraculously recover.
The Avudraham explains the entire beracha along these lines. “You support the falling and heal the sick”, refers to the sick who have approached the gates of death and recover. “You release the imprisoned,” refers to those who have been sentenced to death and are released. Both of these people fall into the category of the revival of the dead.
It is noteworthy that two independent commentaries arrive at the same interpretation of this beracha. Even those sick people to whom medicine affords no hope, can still hope for Hashem’s mercy, since He is “faithful to revive the dead.” As the possukim say, “They had reached the gates of death. They called out to Hashem in their suffering and their trouble, and He rescued them. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from the pit of death.” Hashem does not heal with medicine, but by the power of His very word.
The potential for resurrection from the dead is inherent in man from the moment of his creation. In the possuk, “Hashem created man,” the word for created, “vayatzer,” is spelled with two yuds. The first yud refers to the original creation of man, and the second yud refers to his re-creation when he is revived from death. Regarding the creation of animals, vayatzer is spelled with only one yud, since animals are not destined to arise for the resurrection.
Therefore, two berachos of healing were included in the Shemoneh Esrei prayers. The beracha, “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals the sick of His nation Israel,” refers to the majority of sick people, whereas the beracha of, “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who revives the dead,” refers to the sick people who reach the gates of death, and recover through the seeds of resurrection that were planted within them at the time of their creation.