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Bad News Comes in 3s? Let’s Hope Healing Does, Too

January 11, 2011

As I write, I am wrapping myself in the warm cloak of Debbie Friedman’s Mi Shebeirach … her melodic rendition of the Jewish prayer for healing. I have found myself listening to it and singing it over and over again the past few days. It is the beautiful, pleading tie that binds the three traumatic events that have shaken me over the past few days.

In the first, the grief is national in scope. In the second, the grief lies in the spiritual realm. In the third, the grief is about as personal as it gets for me (without the patient actually being me).

Here are my pleas and prayers for healing.

May God who blessed our ancestors bring blessing and healing to all those who are ill. May the Holy One mercifully restore them to health and vigor, granting them physical and spiritual well-being.
— A translation of the Mi Shebeirach prayer

In the Wake of The Tragedy in Tuscon

My heart breaks for the victims and their families. My heart breaks for the devastating toll mental illness can take on a person, a family, a community, a country. I hope we can heal damage done by rancor and rhetoric on all sides. I hope for healing, both physical and mental, for those who have survived the damage done by a disturbed young man. I hope for eventual healing and peace for the families of those who did not survive this horrifying rampage.

This is a national tragedy. It has taken our collective breath away. Let us now take a collective deep breath and see what healing each of us can bring to the world.

Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M’kor habracha l’imoteinu

May the source of strength who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing
And let us say: Amen.
— The first verse of the Mi Shebeirach song by Debbie Friedman

In the Wake of the Premature Death of Debbie Friedman

Debbie Friedman, who died this past Sunday at age 59 from complications of pneumonia and long-term neurological illnesses, was a gifted singer-songwriter who made liturgy and prayer more accessible to a wide swath of American Jewry through her singable tunes and mix of ancient text with modern English.

She did, indeed, make her life a blessing. Her Mi Shebeirach song gave rise to healing services that made others feel blessed. There are many stories of her being there for those in need. Especially given that she and Rep. Giffords shared their religious affiliation, I imagine Debbie Friedman would have been among the leading voices comforting the mourners in Arizona and praying for the healing of those who survived.

Her music touched me long before I knew her name. One summer in my teens, I learned many beautiful songs in the choir at my Jewish youth group’s leadership camp. I thought I had been let into some privileged inner sanctum of Jewish choral music. But when I went to college a couple of years later and hung out with students who had been in a rival youth group,  I discovered that half those songs I loved were Debbie Friedman tunes … staples of their Reform camp and youth group playlist. How lucky those kids were, to have been singing those songs together all the time!

Let us carry forward this songweaver’s music, promoting togetherness, enthusiasm and spirituality. Debbie Friedman, sadly, can no longer be healed, but, through her music, we can heal our own spirits.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habracha l’avoteinu

Bless those in need of healing with refuah sh’leimah
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit
And let us say: Amen.
— The second verse of the Mi Shebeirach song by Debbie Friedman

In the Wake of My Dear Friend’s Devastating Diagnosis

My oldest friend in the whole wide world needs prayers for the renewal of a diseased body. This third wave of horrible news, by far the most personal for me, came Sunday evening on the heels of the weekend’s other tragedies.

At the moment, I can’t write much about the situation or even about what my forever-friend means to me for fear that a reader might recognize my friend, who has always highly valued privacy. This desire to hole up and talk to no one is a completely foreign concept to me — as someone who processes everything out loud — but it is, of course, a wish I must respect.

But when my dear friend is ready for me, I will be there as much as I can. Offering my support and all the healing energy I can muster.

Let us all send out healing energy to our friends and loved ones who are in need of refuah sh’leimah, a complete healing of body and spirit.


Life is, as they say, short. Each of these three events is a devastating reminder. In times like these, it is helpful to ask ourselves the important questions. Are with the people we want to be with? Are we doing the things we want to be doing? Are we being the person we want to be?

I will be asking myself these questions in the coming days. And, meanwhile, I will continue singing this Mi Shebeirach prayer, in hope for the healing of this country, in memory of a woman who brought so much healing into the world and in entreaty for the healing of my dear friend.


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