When I pray for certain sick people

it's not that I don't want other sick people to get better. Of course I'd like all sick people to get better.

So why not pray for all of them?

There are time constraints.

If you had infinite time, and knew everyone's name, would you include the names of all the sick in your prayers?

All the sick I know (of) personally. The farther away a sick person is from my personal knowledge, the less strength my prayers have. The less I really want them to get better. Or: the less often I think about them. It's a complicated relationship, if I were to think about it more precisely: not just the strength of wanting, not just the frequency of wanting, but the intensity with which the person's condition occupies my attention. The difference between home and another place.

Ideally, you would wish with equal strength for everyone to get better.

I think so.

You recite traditional Jewish prayers, which ask for the sick to be healed "among the other sick of Israel." Do you generally include non-Jews in this prayer?

Not generally. I don't know if that's because I know fewer non-Jews than Jews, because I tend to actively seek out (names of) Jews to pray for, or because I find it more congenial to include Jewish names in a Jewish prayer.

"More congenial" is a pretty term for racial exclusion.

Why don't we pray for the entire world? Why do we stick to our people, to our mythic ancestors, to our Jewish God? Because there's a power to specificity. If there were a strong prayer, embedded in a particular poetic idiom, which embodied a wish for the cure of the entire world, at once, without regard to any divisions at all . . . I can't imagine such a prayer because each prayer has its own preconceptions. Everyone wishes from somewhere, has their own family to yearn from. There is no universal person.

Why not write that prayer? Why not be that person?

There are cultural constraints.

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