Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holy Day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look at it.
Ever since the great Sage Ezra the Scribe instituted the practice of reading the Torah publicly in the 5th Century B.C.E., the Torah Reading has become an integral part of our worship service. Possibly because we consider the Torah to be the direct word of God, the presence of the ancient scroll in our midst makes us feel even closer to our Creator. Ismar Elbogen, the renowned liturgical scholar speculates that “in the course of time the center of gravity shifted significantly from the reading of the Torah itself to the calling of people to the Torah and the recitation of benedictions [ie. Receiving an Aliya]” It is indeed a great source of blessing to be honored by being called to the Torah for an Aliya which literally means, going up.
The practice arose to say a special prayer for those honored with an Aliya that begins with the formula, “Mi Sh’ Beirach Avoteinu… May the One who blessed our ancestors bless …” The custom soon arose to give a donation to the synagogue in gratitude for the honor and associated blessing. Honorees often included a list of all of their relatives – both living and deceased. By the middle ages this was seen as a major source of fundraising and multiple Mi Sh’Beirach prayers were often offered in exchange for multiple donations.
In our tradition, we offer Mi Sh’Beirach prayers for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, B’Nai Mitzvah, for the naming of a baby and for a bride and groom before their wedding day – i.e. the Aufruf (calling up). Because they are not part of the strict structure of the liturgy, the Mi Sh’Beirach prayers can be altered, improvised or adjusted as required. Thus one can find Mi Sh’Beirach prayers for those about to enter college, go on a trip or even head out to Camp Ramah for the summer.
Certainly one of the most meaningful of the Mi Sh’Beirach prayers is the prayer for those that are ill. This compassionate prayer asks for spiritual as well as physical healing. In fact, the rendition of the Mi Sh’Beirach for the ill contained in our Siddur Sim Shalom includes a request for strength and blessing “B’Chol Oskim B’Tzorchihem on all of those who are care-givers as well. When we publicly invoke the names of those who are dear to us in need of healing in the presence of God as represented by the open Torah, we endeavor to reach out to our Creator in the context of our prayer community. Thus, when we say the Mi Sh’Beirach during the Torah reading we connect to God personally while at the same time invoking the combined force of communal prayer. We pray that God will provide healing to those who are not well physically, emotionally or spiritually and will, together with the community, give support to all of those who are concerned or caring for a dear one.
Interestingly, it has been found that those who are the subject of prayer do better that those on whose behalf prayers are not said. However, it is hard to know what exactly the effect of the Mi Sh’Beirach prayer is. Perhaps there can indeed be direct divine intervention. On the other hand perhaps there is an indirect effect in the form of the measure of comfort felt by the individual who is ill, in knowing that there is indeed a community of good people who are concerned for the welfare of that individual in need of healing, as well as, his or her dear ones and caregivers. In either case, a palpable feeling of God’s presence can be the real benefit of reciting the Mi Sh’Beirach prayer.
Hazzan Michael Krausman
By the way, don’t forget to join us for Zev’s Bar Mitzvah. Shabbat, January 1, 2011.
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I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.