A Pancreatic Prayer

8 Jan

In the early days of my illness, the most common message I used to get was that people were praying for me. All sorts of people. Since then, I’ve often been asked what the illness has done to my faith.

The last thing I would do is get myself embroiled in a religious debate about faith or belief. But in the context of “religion” in Israel today, I feel I have to say something. Why is religion in inverted commas? Because so many of us have a definition of religion that is far removed from the religious-secular chasm that is, day by day, growing in Israel. For me, religion is something private between me and my God. My relationship with my fellow man has to have a tolerance far beyond what I see around me today.

My take is as follows: there’s 1 land; there’s 1 Jewish people; there’s 1 Jewish religion – but there are more ways than one way to practice the Jewish religion. On two conditions: no religious coercion and a division between State and religion.

So much for my own musing. I’d rather recount a story that started a couple of months before I was diagnosed. It puts religion in a different perspective. After many years, I decided to change banks. I could only have been to the new bank a couple of times at most; filling-in forms and changing credit cards with a helpful clerk. Then, in the middle of the process, I got sick. Finances weren’t foremost in my mind.  More than a few months passed by without me contacting my clerk. Then the sickest days seemed to have passed – I was beginning to get back to “normalcy”.  I needed to get back to the bank.

So I phone the bank clerk, tell him it’s Moshe, and try reminding him who I am … he stops me mid-sentence. “Moshe ben Ester Malka”, he says, reciting my Hebrew name and my mother’s Hebrew name in full, “I pray for you every day”. You could have knocked me over with a feather. How did he know the names? Why would he bother praying for the likes of me? I remembered that he wore one of those small knitted skull caps. But this is not about his skull cap, nor his dress code. The man had faith in what he felt. And he acted accordingly. Modestly, privately – between himself and his God. I bet he never goes around telling people what to do.

When I was really bad, so many of the “all sorts of people” I referred to above, told us that they themselves were praying for me. From those dressed in black – to those whom religion seemed anathema. I was even told that someone had their whole class at school praying for me!

Is this why my condition turned round? Let each one have his own opinion. But I really believe that in matters of faith, it’s better to keep religious opinions to one’s self – or share them with your God.

And as to the opening question of “what has the illness done to my faith”? I can’t point to any dramatic changes in my belief – but even if could, I’m not sure that I’d share them. The change that is obvious is the increased amount of time I spend at home and with Pam. She bears the brunt of my “belief”. She sees me as how I am. For better for worse. And I bless her every day.







3 Responses to “A Pancreatic Prayer”

  1. Ilan (Clive) Shachar January 8, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Martin – I very much identify with your philosophy that religion is a private thing between oneself and one’s God. It irritates me when someone asks me after Yom Kippur “Did you fast?” It irritates me (and my wife) when on Shabbat she goes alone to synagogue and a woman says to her “You really should make your husband come too – it is our duty as women to influence our men.” I feel that every man should take whatever comfort he can from whatever he believes in, and nobody has the right to tell him what that should be. Religious leaders should restrict themselves to offering direction to those who need help in deciding in what to believe.
    If you never read the book “When bad things happen to good people” by Harold Kushner, do so.

  2. Felicity January 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    You’ve tackled the hardest stuff with your honesty and have articulated it all so logically and simply…

    for me, prayer helps me channel my deep caring and connection directly towards you, and that feels right and good and strong.

    xxx Fil

  3. Tracy Cohen January 17, 2012 at 4:56 am #

    Bless you both.


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