The Embattled Mi-Shebeirach

It’s a simple prayer, used in a variety of situations. Its goal is to ask Hashem to pour some more beracha (blessing) on the government, on the soldiers, on the sick, on a family member, or a friend. What could be wrong with that? Yet this wonderful prayer meant to invoke goodness and blessing has been in the center of much discussion.

Let’s focus on the Mi-Shebeirach that an Oleh (one called up to the Torah) can say for others. Here’s the Art Scroll translation:
“The One who blessed our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, may he bless (names inserted here), that the (name of the Oleh) will contribute charity on their behalf.”

What could be bad? The Shul can raise a little more money, and some more people become the subject of a request for increase blessing. The problem comes in because it’s an “extra” prayer which lengthens the davening. I’m sure many have witnessed a proud grandparent inserting over 20 names of his children and grandchildren, in which case it can lengthen the davening for a minute or two or more. And because the rest of the congregation is not praying during the Mi-Shebeirach, the talking levels tends to increase which takes away from the Shul’s decorum.

These are real issues. Davening is hard. Different people have different levels of Shul stamina. There is an (often unstated) understanding of how long the Shabbos morning davening will take. Lengthening that time can be considered a breach of that understanding. It’s a classic Shul Politics situation!

In the more time-conscious minyanim, the Oleh Mi-Shebeirachs are eliminated altogether. In Shuls where they are made, it’s the Rabbi and Gabbai’s job to maintain and increase sensitivity towards the decorum level during that time. On a personal level, one can pick up a sefer or perhaps say some of the prayers which where skipped.

One last suggestion is that we can think about what is being said and what we are trying to accomplish with the Mi-Shebeirach. Perhaps then we can transform it from a “grin and bear it” to a “smile and embrace it” situation.

3 thoughts on “The Embattled Mi-Shebeirach”

  1. Rabbi Avigdor Miller (a popular Chareidi Rabbi
    and author, born 1908 CE, died 2001 CE) delivered a free
    public lecture in the last year of his life, in which he taught that
    Jews should pray for the Israeli Army.
    I personally witnessed this; I was there.

    When a Jew recites Tefilat Shemoneh Esrei,
    he is permitted to add his own personal prayer requests
    in the middle of the final paragraph, which begins with
    Elokai Netzor Leshoni MeiRa.

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun
    in Teaneck NJ told me that I can recite it even on Shabbat
    and Yom Tov, because it is a communal tefillah,
    not a private bakashah.


  2. one thought to remember, speaking from the viewpoint of a gabbai, is the importance of avoiding ‘tircha d’tzibura’, burdening the rest of the congregation. To my mind, that is a paramount criteria in running the davening. Unnecessarily long mi-sheberachs are a tircha d’tzibura. The same goal can be accomplished by making the mi-sheberach in the name of a son or daughter “and all their family.” That would accomplish the same thing without the tircha d’tzibura.

    The Talmud uses the phrase, “yotza sechora behefseda”, the benefit is subsumed by the loss. To put it simply, the ends don’t justify the means. It may not be appropriate to do something, even with a good intention, if it will have some sort of negative consequence. Maybe the grandchildren will get a better blessing from the A-lmighty if it’s not requested while the rest of the congregation is getting restless by the delay.

    1. I hear your point, but I think it’s up to the Shul to set the rules, and then as long as the people are within the rules we can’t accuse them of ‘tircha d’tzibura’. In this particular case, where the person is making a contribution to the Shul, I think we should learn to embrace. Perhaps that’s the 6 term former treasurer in me talking.

      I plan on talking to the Rav about the halachic definition of ‘tircha d’tzibura’.

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