From Mi Sheberakh to Birkat HaGomel

We pray, Mi Sheberakh,
to the source of blessing
for healing of mind
healing of body
of spirit
that it happen
and fully…
that life should return to the way it was
before the illness,
before the injury,
before the brokenness…
or we pray
that healing come in different ways…
for relief,
for release,
for ease and liberation from suffering 

In and of itself,
the latitude
we give to a definition of healing…
can bring us the comfort,
can bring us the healing we so desire.

And what of that day…
when that healing
for which we
becomes reality?

What words do we have
to celebrate?
What words do we have
to praise our source of blessing
our source of strength
our source of healing?

                   Like bookends,
the words of Mi Sheberakh
initiate and sustain the journey
and isolation that is illness…
and at the other end
of the heavy,
weathered stack of storied experience,
our liturgy offers us
a succinct prayer –
Birkat HaGomel
a blessing made upon
deliverance from danger,
for that time when
one’s name can
joyously be removed from
the Mi Sheberakh list…
as well as for other escapes from misfortune,
the Talmud teaches,
such as returning from sea voyage, journeying through the desert, surviving childbirth, being released from prison,
and living through the potential dangers of our lives

Also known in yiddish as gomel benschen,
Birkat HaGomel
was historically recited in private…
but overtime entered into the art and arc of public prayer…
recited in the midst of the Torah…
but more specifically…
in the midst of others,
in public,
amid a quorum of community…

We will soon have an opportunity
to experience this ritual of
Gomel Benschen,
this public act of gratitude for deliverance.
In some ways,
just being here as a witness is enough –
but actually, in this ritual,
it is not enough.
rather, it is incumbent upon us to respond aloud…

And why?

We all know illness,
We all know calamity…
in various gradations
we all know know the grievous
and grief-ridden blow
of brokenness…
how it is so isolating…
how it causes us to feel so alone,
how it seems that somehow
everyone else’s experience improves,
but ours…
such that no one else could ever understand our experience.
and this is true…
We don’t know another’s experience…
and yet
we do…
we do know.

Birkat HaGomel as a public ritual,
as a public response,
is our way of saying aloud,
before God and one another,
we know you suffered,
we know you felt isolated,
we know your family and friends felt this pain, too,
we felt pain on your behalf…
and while we don’t know exactly what it was like for you…
from our own experience,
we do know…
and because we know,
we’re here now…
and we pray for you,
we give thanks for you,
we celebrate with gratitude the goodness bestowed upon you…
and we welcome you back into our midst…
or perhaps always healing…

and it will be our honor to respond and rejoice in your blessing:

Individual Recites:
Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, ha-gomel l’hayavim tovot sheg’malani kol tov.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the world,
who rewards the undeserving with goodness,
and who has rewarded me with goodness.

Community Responds:
Amen. Mi she g’malkha kol tov, hu yigmalkha kol tov, selah.

May the One who rewarded you with all goodness
reward you with all goodness for ever.


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