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In the eighth bracha of the Shemoneh Esrei we say, “Refa’einu Hashem v’neirafei – Cure us Hashem and we will be cured.” This phrasing contrasts Hashem’s medicine and human medicine. Often times, the human healer will succeed at taking away symptoms but not remove the root cause of the sickness. On the other hand, when Hashem heals, He takes away the malady completely. The Zohar Chadosh adds that when Hashem cures, it is a refuah nitzchi, a lasting cure, unlike the doctor who might succeed in a blessed remission but sadly the disease might resurge again, sometimes even in a more malignant way.

We then say, “Hoshi’einu v’nivashei’ah – Save us and we will be saved.” Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum, in his excellent sefer, Pathways to Prayer, explains this addition as a request to save us from dangers that can cause sickness. Examples include ticks, which can cause lime disease, mosquitos which can carry Zika or West Nile virus or even malaria. We ask Hashem to protect us from catching Covid, measles, strep, and other infectious diseases, from feces contaminants that can cause Hepatitis, and to shield us from the toxic effects of second-hand smoke and vaping.


We add “Ki sihilaseinu Attah – For You are our praise.” Rab Yechezkel Abramsky, zt”l, zy”a, explains that we are clarifying that we understand our deliverance from sickness ultimately comes from Hashem. The doctor is only His agent. Dovid HaMelech recommends, “Al tivtichu bin’divim, b’ven adom she’ein lo seshuah – Don’t put your trust in generous people; people who are not the source of our salvation.” While the doctor definitely deserves our gratitude for his skill and dedication, our eyes should be mainly focused on Hashem, the true Determinator of our fate.

So too, we don’t put our trust in the Excedrin or the penicillin, in the oxycodone or the morphine or any other prescriptions, but in Hashem Above. (It is for this reason that before taking a pill we say, “Yehi ratzon milfonecha, Hashem Elokai v’Elokei avosi, she’yehei eisek zeh lir’fu’ah – May it be Your will Hashem, my G-d and G-d of my fathers, that this attempt should be a successful cure.) As the Gemara in Bava Kamma [92b] tells us wryly, “Chamra l’moreih, tivusa l’shakyei – The wine belongs to the host, but people show appreciation to the butler who pours it.” As Rashi there warns us, don’t make the mistake of misplaced appreciation.

Ki Keil Melech rofei ne’eman v’rachaman Attah – For You, Almighty, are King, a trusted and merciful Healer.” We refer to Hashem as King to intimate that He can give a presidential pardon even if the sick person is undeserving. The Siddur Meforesh says that the reason we mention that ‘He is trustworthy’ alludes back to what we said before, we trust that with Hashem’s healing, the illness will never return. We say that He is merciful so that we can ask for His help, although we haven’t fully repented from the sins that brought about the sickness in the first place.

We conclude the blessing, “Rofei cholei amo Yisrael – He heals the sick of the nation Yisrael.” It is interesting that in the bracha Asher Yotzar, we say “Rofei kol basar – He heals all flesh,” while over here we restrict it to the people of Israel. The discussion of this subject is beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, there are ample sources in halacha that one may pray for a non-Jew, especially if it generates a Kiddush Hashem or if the non-Jew had done one a favor. Why it is not included in the conclusion of this blessing is a complexity which needs to be discussed at a different time.

In the merit of our praying for the health and wellbeing of all of our brethren, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.

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