How to Pray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Health – Kveller
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How to Pray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Health

Like most Jewish women across the country, my stomach lurched when I read the news this morning that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been hospitalized. Hopefully the 85-year-old powerhouse’s fractured ribs will heal swiftly, and her injury doesn’t indicate or initiate any other health concerns.

But if you’re feeling like this is a moment when you need to turn to a Higher Power for help and comfort — well, you’re not alone. Even if prayer isn’t normally your thing, Jewish tradition makes it easy. Try these Jewish prayer tactics to send some good, healing vibes RBG’s way.

1. Say a Mi Sheberach

The Mi Sheberach is the traditional Jewish prayer for healing. The prayer asks God for strength, compassion, and complete healing for the one who is ill. That sounds like exactly what RBG needs right now.

Read more about the prayer, read it in English, and listen to a Hebrew version here.

The prayer names the person in need of healing specifically, so if you say it in Hebrew, you’ll need to know RBG’s Hebrew name. Fortunately, the Twitterverse has done its research: Apparently her Hebrew name is ‪Yita Ruchel bat Tzirel Leah, which means “Yita Ruchel, daughter of Tzirel Leah.”If you say the prayer in English, it’s totally fine to say “Ruth, daughter of Celia.”

For anyone who grew up in a Reform congregation, the moving Debbie Friedman version of this prayer might be familiar. The late singer-songwriter created a beautiful rendition of the Mi Sheberakh; watch her perform it here, then hum it all day in honor of Ginsburg.


2. Pray for Healing in a Group

If you’re hoping — hard — for RBG’s health, you’ll likely want to spit out a prayer as soon as possible. But if she’s still in the hospital come Saturday morning, you can head to synagogue to say the Mi Sheberach in a communal setting. In most synagogues, communities pray together on Shabbat mornings for the healing of anyone who is ill.

On Twitter, Rabbi Mark Goodman points out that in most synagogues, you can participate in this group prayer for healing if you make it there by 10:45ish, right before the 7th part of the reading of that week’s Torah portion.

RBG’s Hebrew name is Yita Ruchel bat Celia.

Usually if you get to synagogue by 10:45 on Shabbat you can make the 7th aliyah in time to slip in the misheberach for cholim (‘healing’) prayer.

— Rabbi Mark Goodman (@RabbiMarkAsherG) November 8, 2018

Even if you’re not a regular synagogue goer, a whole GROUP of prayers directed RBG’s way can’t possibly hurt.

3. Pick a Psalm

Many people, including Christians, are familiar with Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”), but there are actually 150 psalms in Jewish liturgy. People often turn to the psalms, or tehillim in Hebrew, in times of need, and many of them are specifically about healing.

In order to make sure ALL psalms are said in specific times of illness or crisis, some people gather to say psalms as a group.

One Jewish mom was spurred to action immediately upon hearing the news about Ginsburg’s health. Kveller contributor Tamar Fox created a signup sheet so that anyone can offer to say a psalm in RBG’s honor, guaranteeing that all the psalms would be said each day that she is ill.

“I am not someone who regularly turns to saying tehillim in a time of crisis, but the idea of RBG not being able to serve on the Supreme Court strikes terror in my heart, especially in these times,” Fox tells Kveller. “Since I can’t make her a meal, or help her directly, I figure it can’t hurt to say some tehillim.”

You can select a psalm on Tamar’s signup sheet here. And whether or not you sign up for this group activity, you can find all the psalms, in Hebrew and English, here on Sefaria.

4. Offer Two Words

If the longer prayers and psalms feel too complicated, or you’re intimidated by the Hebrew, don’t worry. Judaism offers a simple, two-word way to ask for healing. “Refua shlema” — an expression that’s usually translated as “a full and speedy recovery,” and is pronounced “re-fu-ah she-lay-mah” — is an easy, Jewish way to say “Get well soon.” Simply turn your head in the direction of Washington, D.C. and repeat it often!

Header image via Josh Edelson

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