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    The prayer of Moses – B’ha’alot’cha

    When Miriam was smitten with leprosy, Moses prayed for her recovery using the shortest prayer we can imagine: “God, please heal her, please” (Num. 12:13).

    The word we have translated “please” is na. It frequently figures in Scripture with this meaning. In the long Psalm 118, for example, which we know from the Hallel, we ask God, Hoshi’ah na! Hatzlichah na! – “Send salvation please! Send prosperity please!”

    Yet though na appears twice in Moses’ prayer, translators tend to give each na a different meaning, resulting in the rendering, “God, please heal her now“.

    This does not exhaust the shades of meaning inherent in the word, since it also comes in Ex. 12:9, where it means “rare” or “raw” (“Do not eat it – the Pesach lamb – raw… but roasted with fire”).

    In this sense it is unique in Tenach (Ibn Ezra says “it has no companion”) and could well come from a completely different root, giving us two words which look and sound the same but are far from identical in meaning. The usual na is part of an entreaty and has to be translated according to the context.

    However, our observation about things that look and sound alike being in fact different can be given a homiletical interpretation.

    Human beings may look alike but are never carbon copies of one another in character and personality. Not even identical twins are interchangeable in their nature, disposition or achievements. Every human is unique and precious, which is one of the reasons why we are reluctant to count people.

    None is a mere number: each one is a universe of their own.

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