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October 4, 2015 | 21st Tishrei 5776
Mi Shebeirach


  1. Jul 2006 Digest 112

    …The recitation of the Mi Shebeirach and the names of those in need of healing, care, compassion and release from pain, is, in my opinion the essence of what Judaism and Temples and synagogues stand for. If we are not for community support, and not for imploring God to help us in our lives, what on earth are we doing in a Temple in the first place?? The Mi Shebeirach and the recitation of those in need of prayers remains perhaps the central most important moment in our worship.

  2. Jul 2006 Digest 112

    At our synagogue, it is up to those who are ill to determine whether or not to have their name read out loud. Some congregants choose to have their Hebrew names read, to remain partially confidential. We also offer our congregation the opportunity to speak the names of those not on the list--which brings ten to twenty more names on a typical Shabbat evening.

    The wonderful thing about being a Reform Jew is that each person, and each congregation, can decide how to create a worship experience that is most meaningful to them. As with anything, each congregation should incorporate this prayer (or not) as they feel best meets the needs of their congregational family.

    As for HIPPA, it does not apply here, although respect for privacy should be considered when formulating a policy.


  3. Jul 2006 Digest 112

    In our congregation we have had a list read by the rabbi and then an opportunity for individuals to speak names not mentioned. In the past three weeks the rabbis have stopped reading the list and relied on the congregants present to name the names they want to think of. Many people are unhappy with this change and many (although fewer) are very pleased…

    Although I do not expect the prayer to have any healing power, I find it gives me comfort to name or hear read the names of people I care for who are ill, some with terminal illnesses. I know from conversations with some that they are comforted knowing that there are people who care enough to name their names.

    This is not voodoo, nor is it superstition. Many of us rely on community to support us when we are in pain. This is a way for the community to provide support that is in addition to bikkur cholim and can inform some so we can perform bikkur cholim.


  4. Jul 2006 Digest 112

    …whether we believe in petitionary prayer or not, we should continue to offer up such prayers. I find saying this prayer comforting, though I continue to have doubts as to whether the Kaddish Boruch Hu intervenes directly in human affairs.
    ca. 1200 member units

  5. Jul 2006 Digest 112

    …It had never occurred to me that one might find this practice offensive or uncomfortable. To the extent that such people are not yet able to receive the comfort and healing that I have experienced, it would be my prayer that they soon are able to do so…

    I cannot picture Friday evening services without the Mi Sheiberach. In terms of when to say this, recently I was introduced to the practice of doing so only when the Torah is open and read. In our congregation however it is done Friday night.


  6. Jul 2006 Digest 112

    …I think the privacy issue is a tempest in a teapot. During the years when the Mi Shebeirach was virtually totally absent from Reform worship (not so long ago, by the way), nobody questioned whether the temple bulletin was invading anyone's privacy when it said that a contribution to the Prayer Book Fund had been received as a wish for the speedy recovery of Sally Smith (and it was Sally Smith, not Sora bat Moshe). Certainly our clergy should honor requests not to mention a given name--but do they go out into the congregation and gag the person who knows from another source that Sally is sick, but does not know that Sally's daughter told the rabbi not to mention Sally's name, when that congregant invokes the name during the add-a-name section to the sick list that has become so prevalent?

    Next, the efficacy of prayer…praying for the well-being of others may not cause God to intervene with a cure, but can comfort both the pray-er and the pray-ee. How can it be bad to publicly acknowledge concern for a fellow-being, and to share that concern with the community (so others can be aware and become concerned)?

    Now, the history of the Reform Mi Shebeirach--on which subject I have no expertise, but a long memory. It seems to me that we have had "sick lists" read for longer than we have been reciting the Mi Shebeirach prayer (or more frequently, Debbie Friedman's adaptation of it). But tying the expression of concern…to a request for divine intervention is much more recent; and I believe was accelerated, if not initiated, by the Debbie Friedman version. Anther instigator, and perhaps there is a chicken and egg here, is the rising popularity of healing services (albeit those may appeal to those who seek healing for themselves more than for others). But I suspect that the absence of the prayer for many decades was tied to the rationalism that pervaded early Reform (by early, I mean the first 120 years)--unwillingness to expect God to intervene and thus why ask Him (in those days, it would always have been Him, not Her or some gender-neutral substitute) to do so. (I suspect that was one of the reasons we didn't have the prayer in the Conservative, Kaplan-influenced congregation where I grew up; the other was because of disdain for the custom prevalent in many Orthodox congregations at the time of requesting the Mi Shebeirach with the understanding that there was a price tag attached.)

    …I am a Reform Jew in great measure because I admire our rabbis' creativity in finding new meanings in old rituals. Ken yirbu. May it only increase.

    1000 units

  7. Jul 2006 Digest 113

    For me, the most important phrase in the Mi Shebeirach prayer for healing is R'fuat hanefesh--which I understand as renewal of spirit or soul. I associate that with how one feels in the face of an illness--his or her approach and attitude. Debbie Friedman once introduced her Mi Shebeirach for healing by saying that renewal of body may not always be possible, but renewal of spirit can happen in most cases. That is why I say the prayer when I do.

  8. Jul 2006 Digest 113

    I recently attended a Bat Mitzvah Service and noticed that in one of the hallways of the synagogue, there was a list displayed on a table with the names of congregants in need of healing. Next to it, there was another list with simchas listed...babies born, marriages, etc. I thought it said a lot about the congregation and sent a wonderful message that we need to be informed of what is going on in the lives of our congregational family so that we can do our part in helping and rejoicing. I plan to raise the idea in my own synagogue…
    250 families

  9. Jul 2006 Digest 116

    In our congregation, the rabbis invite congregants to say aloud the names of those whose health--physical and/or spiritual they are thinking of….The rabbis always add, “If more than one name is said at a time, it's fine--they are all heard.” At a typical service where we have fewer than 100 people in attendance, the process does not take very long, certainly not longer than reading a list from the bimah…In our children's service on Sundays, we often make room for the Mi Shebeirach, especially if we know of a child who may choose to say a name aloud. The custom is well received by both adults and children.
    380 family units

  10. Dec 2006 Digest 190

    …I never thought of mentioning a sick person's name to be prayed for as "gossip."

    In this modern society where we have so many means of communication, but are becoming increasingly disconnected from each other, the Mi Shebeirach affords us the opportunity to reach out to people in need.

    Perhaps there could be something communicated by the temple newsletter, announcements at events, etc., that privacy will be observed at a congregant’s request. Or, an ill person will be asked if they want their name withheld.

    But who doesn't want comfort from their community in a time of need?


  11. Dec 2006 Digest 190

    …Congregants call me or our office assistant to have a name(s) put on that they consent to having printed and read during services when I say a prayer, and we all sing a prayer of healing.

    The name is kept on our list for one month, but is cleared at the end of that time. It is infinitely renewable, but one must ask.

    At the appropriate time in the service we read the names together, and I also ask for name(s) not on the list that people would like to say aloud. And then I do add "all those names in our hearts" but not said aloud to include in our prayers.

    I have been taught by my congregants to add these words as well: “For all those at the end of their life, May God grant a healing of spirit and the comfort that only God can bring.”

    …my congregants heard another Rabbi say this and brought it back to me.

    …I make a point of saying the Mi Shebeirach and our regular prayers of healing

    during [the B’nei Mitzvah Service] so our kids and visitors know we are a caring community.


  12. Dec 2006 Digest 190

    …we do not generally mention names during Friday night services, but we do mention names during the Saturday morning minyan (smaller, less formal, people often come for yahrtzeits, Mi Shebeirachs, etc.). I cannot recall an instance of names being mentioned during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, either. This is not necessarily by policy, but more by practice…
    1100+ Units

  13. Dec 2006 Digest 190

    …having been seriously ill a few years ago, however, I can understand a bit on both sides of the question.

    My rabbi has a unique way of handling this--use the person's Hebrew name until they give you the ok to use their "English" name. While I can't imagine anyone not wanting to be on a Mi Shebeirach list at all (certainly worked for me!), I can understand wanting to be private about some things. So she reads the list with English names and Hebrew names; then asks for those to announce or "think" of those in need of healing. All the bases pretty much get covered…

    180 families

  14. Dec 2006 Digest 191

    …To the critic, I'd say the privacy problem is real, but any policy has downsides and risks. Weighing the risks, is it worth controlling or shutting off all opportunity for people to add names spontaneously out-loud? I'm not sure how I'd answer, but I think this is the best question to explore…
    (501 families)

  15. Dec 2006 Digest 191

    In our discussion of [the Mi Shebeirach], I wonder if the congregation understands its origin and intent.

    In the daily Amidah the eighth petition is for health. There are the traditional three Yekum Purkan prayers that conclude with a Mi Shebeirach--a prayer for healing.

    The point is to petition God for healing and remind the congregation of its responsibility toward others in the community. It is not meant to be an "announcement" which may be what is misunderstood by the congregation. Along those lines, I wonder if people who object, do not believe either in the efficacy of prayer, or God's intervention in our lives. That may be why they reject the tradition.

    If you have ever attended an Orthodox service this part of the service really does become a petition.


  16. July 2007 Digest 141
    We do include a Mi Shebeirach in our services and have for some time. I suspect it has been evolutionary, not revolutionary. I sort of remember when we did not do it and when we had monthly "healing services" somewhere around '97-'98. Now we always include it. Mostly Debbie Friedman's but occasionally Leon Sher's or Lisa Levine's both of which are lovely and a welcome change from the "regular." Traditionally, there are different Mi Shebeirachs for different occasions, the most commonly known is for healing.
    400 member units

  17. July 2007 Digest 141

    Mi sheberakhs of any sort (that is, prayers for healing, prayers for blessing of those who come up to the Torah for aliyot, prayers in this form for a newborn, and prayers in this form for the congregation) were not part of classical Reform liturgy--they were deemed to lengthen the service unduly and to reduce its decorum and focus (for the same reasons, aliyot--and certainly multiple aliyot--and hakafot with the Torah scroll through the congregation were also eliminated).

    Debbie Friedman's setting [Derora Setel was the co-author with Debbie Friedman of the lyrics of Mi Sheberakh; Debbie wrote the melody] is single-handedly responsible for the reinstitution of the custom in the Reform movement--but in a very non-traditional way.

    Traditionally, personalized prayers for healing can be inserted in the Refu'ah/Healing benediction of the weekday Amidah, but this is never recited on Shabbat (no petitions then in the Amidah). On Shabbat morning, when the Torah is read, personalized blessings of various sorts can be offered in the presence of the scroll immediately following the reading (or following each aliyah). What happened in the 90's in the Reform Movement was the creation of a new tradition, where Debbie's Mi Sheberakh would be sung after the Amidah at every service, no matter when during the week. This is (traditionally) unprecedented. This was also directly linked to the spread

    of healing services.

    Considered sociologically, what we're looking at here is the baby boomers'…confrontation with the physical and emotional challenges of middle age--sickness, disability (very personal, in Debbie's case), loss--combined with the impulse to deal with these ritually (as a way of owning these things and doing something about them). Additionally, these (both Mi Sheberakh and healing services) come out of the culture of the women's movement, which promoted the creation of new rituals to deal with personal passages that were either under-represented in the tradition or in its Reform-domesticated form. The earliest proponents of healing services were women (both clergy and congregants) of the boomer generation. Here is an instance of a popular groundswell flowing up rather than something instituted from the top-down (although women in the rabbinate and cantorate were, on the whole, more open to and promoting of this at the very outset--every generalization having exceptions, of course).


  18. July 2007 Digest 142

    The Setel-Friedman version of Mi Shebeirach came out in 1988. It was brought to [the congregation to which I belonged then]…by one of our many guitar-playing student rabbis, and has been a fixture at Friday night services ever since, in every Reform congregation to which I have belonged.

    While I will give a lot of credit to the increasingly important role of women in positions of leadership in the movement from the late 80's onward to the impetus for change, and in particular, in the search for new approaches to spirituality, I think the popularity of Debbie Friedman's music is primarily related to the accessibility of it for the average congregant. It is the kind of music that is readily teachable by a student rabbi or a cantorial soloist with a guitar, giving the congregation a much wanted and needed opportunity to actively participate in the service with much more feeling than they can put in to most of the…responsive or congregational readings in GOP.

    As for precedents, the only one I am aware of is the mi she-bei-rach offered when one completed his a-li-ya at a traditional service to call for the healing of some individual or individuals named in the prayer. This accomplished not only the spiritual and psychological objective associated with the recitation, but also communicated to the community the names of those who might need to be the object of a mitzv-ah or two. Our modern approach to the prayer achieves the same things.

    When I am called upon to lead the prayer, I use the Craig Taubman/Allen Weiner version (short, all Hebrew), but our cantorial soloists prefer the Debbie Friedman/D'roreh Setel version or another, similar, Hebrew-English composition.

    250? member units

  19. July 2007 Digest 142
    When we started our "Library Minyan" in 1995, we were well aware of the already-established tradition in many congregations (but not ours) of singing the beloved Friedman/Setel Mi Shebeirach. Our congregation also had occasional healing services around that time, and it was sung there. There were no alternative musical settings; we chose not to sing the Mi Shebeirach but wanted to include the opportunity to pray for our ailing relatives and friends. We pasted a spoken prayer for healing and community into the back of the siddurim. Everyone reads that prayer out loud after the Torah reading while the Torah is still out, and there is a place in the middle for people to speak names of those who are ill…
    1700 families

  20. July 2007 Digest 142

    Our congregation includes a Mi Shebeirach l'cholim in virtually every service. On Friday nights, it is usually the Setel-Friedman version, which we now sing at the conclusion of the Amidah. During the Shabbos morning minyan, a Mi Shebeirach l'cholim is either said (a more traditional but egalitarian version with no reference to charity) or sung (again, Setel-Friedman version) while the Sefer Torah is out during the Torah service. A Mi Shebeirach l'cholim is also sung during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service as well.

    Also, it has become our practice to say (one) Mi Shebeirach l'olim (including korim) for those who have been called to the Torah for aliyot or to read/leyn during our Shabbos morning minyan and sometimes in our congregational services. We say this is Hebrew and English, and our feedback over the years since we started this practice has been positive in that the sentiments expressed in the Mi Shebeirach fit with the chevrut of the minyan and Bar/Bat Mitzvah service.

    There have also been occasions in which a congregant has been called to the Torah to say Birchat haGomel, another tradition that I think has not enjoyed widespread practice in contemporary liberal Jewish observance. I have seen our Shabbos morning crowd reduced to tears upon the recitation of Gomel, including me with my own father upon his return from emergency cardiac surgery while vacationing in Europe. While the goal is not to bring down the house, it has been my experience that Gomel can certainly enhance the communal aspect of our synagogue worship, and remind us of the dual nature of our worship--that of the individual and of the community.

    ~1200 units


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