Among the best emails I receive at Temple are those that inform me that someone has recovered from illness and can be removed from our Mi Sheberach list. In fact, just last week, a member let me know that I could remove a young lady’s name because after a two year battle with cancer, she was now cancer-free. Exultation and thanksgiving were understandably expressed when this member conveyed this news to me.
Obviously, when someone requests that a person no longer needs a Mi Sheberach, we readily accommodate. However, in the absence of a direct request, there are no set criteria at Temple Beth Torah for how long someone’s name is on our list. In one congregation, I have read that after four weeks, an individual is automatically removed unless there is a long-term request. In another synagogue, they erase the list every summer and congregants are notified that if they want names on the list they have to “re-apply.”
In our Worship Committee, we have discussed the subject of our Mi Sheberach list and how long someone’s name should be on it. We all agreed that the matter should be approached with care. To automatically remove someone’s name after a set period of time seems insensitive. On the other hand, perhaps there has been an improvement in the individual’s condition and we are unaware. We decided that a personalized outreach to Temple individuals and families would be the best approach and fortunately, Sheldon Schwartz, chair of our Chevra Chesed committee, volunteered to do so. Sheldon, as everyone knows, is kind-hearted and compassionate and just the right person to reach out to others.
There is a depth of feeling that envelopes the sharing of our prayer for healing for family members, our friends, and at times, for ourselves. The significance of offering a Mi Sheberach is something I addressed in a Yom Kippur morning sermon in 2011. I want to share this excerpt:
“Our communal offering of the Mi Sheberach orients us toward hope, which is an attribute at the root of being a Jew. Offering a Mi Sheberach undergirds our communal strength. It offers us the assurance that we are not isolated in the pain we feel when we are diseased; nor are we alone in our anguish when someone we love is seriously ill. When we are sick, by reciting or singing the Mi Sheberach, we activate within ourselves the divine spark of Being, animating our better selves, transcending the pain we might feel, and enabling us to endure our suffering. By reciting or singing the Mi Sheberach on behalf of our loved ones, we share within our community the intimate knowledge that someone is ill and is need of assistance. Our help can come by performing the mitzvah of Bikkur Cholim, visiting the sick. Our support can take the form of providing a meal. We can offer aid by making contact with someone who is sick, whether by phone or by sending an email or by mailing a card and letting a person know we care.”
In offering a Mi Sheberach, we pray for those who are ill a healing of body and a healing of spirit. May our communal Mi Sheberach also move us to offer comfort to those who are vulnerable and are in need of our support.