As you can imagine, this
has been an intense and profound summer in Israel for Steve and myself. As
always, the learning at the Hartman Institute was extraordinary. Even more
extraordinary, however, was the leadership and compassion on the part of the
president, Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, and his entire faculty and staff. It is
beyond ironic that the theme of study for this summer, planned many months
earlier, was “A Time for War, A Time for Peace.” During the coming months I
will be bringing to you, in one context or another, some of the materials we
studied together. Even more than the usual hevruta and instruction was the
comfort that we all were able to derive from each other, faculty and colleagues
alike, as we processed the unfolding of the awful events of this summer. We are
all hoping and assuming that the violence will stop, and a satisfactory
resolution will be achieved as soon as possible, with the assurance of security
for all civilians on both sides. Eventually this will happen, we are confident,
because that’s the way things tend to happen in Israel.
For now, if I may, I would
like to address our congregational trip to Israel next May. Some of you may be
wondering if we are still going ahead with it. The reality is that by May, God
willing, this all will be a distant memory, and things will be quiet. In the
coming weeks, I will be creating a number of opportunities for us to speak
about this, both in groups, and one-on-one. For now I will say three things.
(1) We will not recklessly
just march into danger. Our collective safety and security are paramount, and
we will present a “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance policy at the outset. (2)
We are deeply certain that this will be an extraordinary and enriching
experience for all of us, offering outstanding opportunities for learning and
camaraderie, a journey not to be missed. (3) During the coming year, through
the iEngage Adult Education series that we will begin in October and continue
throughout the year (featured in next month’s Bulletin), we will be delving
more deeply into our relationship with Israel, and our thoughts and feelings
vis à vis the people and politics of Israel. This trip will bring together much
of the material that we will be discussing, and will bring us
up-close-and-personal perspective that can only be gained “on the ground.” It
is my fervent hope that you will seriously consider coming with us in May, and
that you will not hesitate to speak with me at any time if you have questions
and/or concerns. We will send out registration materials in a separate mailing.
Meanwhile, as always,
Stephen, Philip and I wish all of you L'shanah tovah tikateivu v'teichateimu
- May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for blessing, life,
-Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman
The Mi Shebeirach blessing has become a regular feature of our services. Mi Shebeirach means “The One who blessed.” It begins: Mi Shebeirach avoteinu, Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Ya’akov, v’imoteinu, Sarah, Rivka, Rahel, v’Leah... Hu y’vareich et… “May the One who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bestow Your blessing upon ... and so on.”
Though most often we have recited Mi Shebeirach for those who are ill, our liturgy actually provides different Mi Shebeirach texts for various occasions. There are blessings at an aufruf for a bride and groom; blessings for new parents and blessings for their babies; and indeed, blessings for each person who is given the honor of being called the Torah to recite the Torah blessing - the honor that we call an Aliyah (going up to the Torah). The Torah blessings are completed, and then the Mi Shebeirach is recited by the Rabbi or Cantor.
While earlier generations of Reform Jews preferred to excise all these “Mi Shebeirachs” from the service, often out of a general anxiety about needlessly elongating the liturgy, our own generation has shown a marked preference for putting them back in. There is a general sense that it is important to acknowledge and bless people in their lives: whether as a prayer for a restoration to health, or in the joy of a new baby, an impending marriage, or for the honor of being called to the Torah.
Our new siddur, MISHKAN T’FILAH, has inserted a Mi Shebeirach for an Aliyah, which essentially is the traditional text. Some of the members of our Religious Practices Committee found the traditional wording objectionable from a theological standpoint, so I took the liberty of rewriting the blessing. The translation of the text now reads:
May the One Who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless ________ (son)(daughter) of _________ who has ascended to the Torah, with good health, happiness, prosperity and peace; with wisdom and understanding, with the love of Torah and reverence for the Divine. And let us say Amen.
We have used this already at Shabbat Morning services, and it seems to be well received by those in attendance, and appreciated by those who have been called for an aliyah. Thus, the next time you happen to be at a morning service, you’ll hear this Mi Shebeirach in addition to the one for healing. We hope you will enjoy the addition of this blessing. Though it adds little more than a few seconds to the service, it holds considerable significance for those being blessed, and their families.
Blessings to all –
-Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman