Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center

Tazria-Metzora 5762 - Israel Independence Day

Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's International Center for Jewish Identity.
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Tazria-Metzora 5762 /Israel Independence Day / April 13, 2002

Mi She-Berakh for Immigrants to Israel

Dr. Aharon Arendt
Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud

The format of the Jewish prayer service is essentially fixed, although from time to time new prayers are written and attempts made to introduce them into the service. One portion of the service that has had many variations is the "Mi She-Berakh," generally recited on Sabbaths during and after the Torah reading. Liberties were taken with the wording of this prayer since it does not contain the name of the Lord in the formula Barukh atta and hence could not be considered "a blessing said in vain" (berakhah levatalah).

Dozens of Mi She-Berakh prayers have been composed over the years to celebrate various occasions: for the community, for those called to the Torah, for donors of ritual objects, for those careful not to discuss mundane matters in the synagogue, for those who fasted the fasts of "Monday-Thursday-Monday", for a woman after childbirth, for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, for a bridegroom, for reaching a notable age, for the ill, for the captive, for Jews in places of distress, and many others. Some formulations have entered the prayer book or regular prayer service.[1] For the most part it is difficult to know who wrote any given Mi She-Berakh, since the authors have not left any sign. Several studies have been made of Mi She-Berakh formulations.[2]

Some of the Mi She-Berakh prayers formulated in modern times relate to the land of Israel. Namely, those Mi She-Berakh prayers for philanthropists who gave money to help Israel's poor and support Torah study in the land of Israel.[3] After the establishment of the State of Israel a number of Mi She-Berakh prayers were added and several of the assorted formulations of the "Prayer for the Welfare of the State" were patterned on the Mi She-Berakh. For example, the prayer composed by Rabbi Issar Yehudah Untermann on the day of the proclamation of the state, when he was serving as Rabbi of Tel Aviv, and the prayer of Rabbi Israel Brody, Chief Rabbi of England, written in 1949.[4] Another well-known Mi She-Berakh is the prayer for the Israel Defense Forces.[5] Several years ago a formulation of a Mi She-Berakh for those settling the land of Israel was published, apparently composed in the wake of the Oslo Accords, with the comment beneath it that some congregations instituted this blessing on Sabbaths and Festivals.[6] The blessing is as follows:

May He who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless all those who settle the expanses of our land and are engaged in redeeming its precious regions, and bless all those engaged in strengthening Israel's hold on her land, in promoting immigration and absorption, teshuvah and exalting the reputation of Israel. May the Holy One, blessed be He, bless the work of their hands and send deliverance to their bastions. May He place our lot with them and show us the deliverance of His land and the people that are His inheritance, and let us say Amen.

Below is an anonymous Mi She-Berakh, as yet unpublished, composed around 1948-1949 in Ujda, in eastern Morocco, for Jews immigrating to Israel. It prays that the immigrants be protected along their way (a variant of the prayer for travelers), that they have long life in the land of Israel, and hopes that the remaining Jews in Morocco speedily immigrate to Israel.[7] Presumably it was recited in the synagogue prior to the departure of certain members of the congregation for Israel. This is how it went:

May He who blessed our pure and holy forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, bless, protect and safeguard all our brethren the Children of Israel, men, women and children, young and old, who are setting out across sea, land, and air, to immigrate to the land of our forefathers. May the King of Kings in His mercy protect them and keep them alive and deliver them from all hardship and harm. May the King of Kings in His mercy cancel all evil and harsh decrees against them and us, and decree good fortune for them and for us, bringing them to their destination in peace, to live a long life in the Holy Land. May the King of Kings in His mercy hasten our redemption and our immigration to our land, that we may enjoy our days there in liberty to devote ourselves to Torah and Avodah. May the Redeemer come to Zion, so be it, and let us say Amen.

[1] It is well known that at times the Mi she-Berakh prayers recited on the Sabbath are numerous and long, to the extent that they become burdensome upon the congregation; and many have warned against this practice. For example, Rabbi S. Aviner wrote in the notes that he published two years ago, entitled "Thoughts on the Weekly Reading": "The Synagogue is not the office of a Hassidic Rebbe. Do not make lengthy Mi She-Berakhs, since no one listens anyway. May those who insist on not having a Mi She-Berakh recited for them be blessed." In 1991, my father Prof. M. Arendt wrote in "Le-Takanat ha-Tefilah," Shana be-Shana 5759, p. 356: "The custom of adding a Mi She-Berakh for the sick, mentioning by name dozens of people and reciting it as a regular practice, has the smell of 'New ones, who came but lately' (Deut.32:17) and this is not a good sign." Several synagogues have instituted a practice of cutting back on Mi She-Berakhs. For example, in Cong. Ohel Nehamah in Jerusalem ("Chopin Synagogue"), the by-laws (from 1996) state: "A Mi She-Berakh shall be said only for the individual called to the Torah, with the addition of the words 'and all his family' after his own name."
[2] See E. Yaari, "Tefilot Mi She-Berakh, Hishtalshelutan, Minhagan, ve-Nus'haoteihen," Kiryat Sefer, 33 (1958), pp. 118-130, 233-250; ibid., 36 (1961), pp. 103-118; N. Fried, "H'earot le-Mehkar E. Yaari al Tefilot Mi She-Berakh," loc. sit., 37 (1962), pp. 511-514; D. Y. Cohen, "He'arot u-Meluim le-Mehkaro shel E. Yaari al Tefilot Mi She-Berakh," loc. sit., 40 (1965), pp. 542-559; A. Arendt, Pirkei Mehkar le-Yom ha-Atzmaut, Jerusalem 1998, index. An extensive collection of Mi She-Berakh prayers for all sorts of benefactors who contributed to printing books can be found in the first and last pages of religious books by North African rabbis. For example, see the beginning pages of Kise Rahamim on Tractate Berakhot by Rabbi R. Huri, Jereba 1972, and the concluding pages of R. S. Ha-Cohen's Perah Shushan, Jerusalem 1977, where there are eighty-six such prayers extending over twenty-three pages.
[3] For example, see Yaari, note 2 above, Kiryat Sefer, 33, pp. 243-244, 247-250; Cohen, loc. sit., 40, p. 550.
[4] See Arendt, note 2 above, p. 193.
[5] See Arendt on this, loc. sit., index. Several congregations have recently begun to recite a Mi She-Berakh for soldiers drafted into the IDF: "May He who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, bless the young man so-and-so, who is beginning his service in the Israel Defense Forces. May the Holy One, blessed be He, protect him and grant him success in all that he do, and may he find favor and good grace in the eyes of G-d and man. May the Holy One, blessed be He, let him finish his term of duty, sound and in good health, and may the words be fulfilled, 'Let every man return to his family,' and let us say Amen.
[6] See Shanah be-Shanah, 1996, p. 298. In this connection we note the Mi She-Berakh for a family joining a settlement, i Mi She-Berakhs ncluded in the by-laws of the Givat Rimon Synagogue in Efrat (note 5, above): "May He who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, bless so-and-so and his wife and all the members of their family, who have come to settle in Efrat. May the Holy One, blessed be He, let them merit building in this place a mighty and glorious home, in friendship and security, all Israel being friends, and let us say Amen."
[7] I would like to thank R. Eliyahu Raphael Marciano, author of Malkhei Yeshurun al Hakhmei Algeria (Jerusalem 1990), and other works, for providing me the text of this prayer.