Hebrew College is closed until May 1 for Passover. Chag Sameach!

Psalm 6: Reflection on Babyonian Talmud Berakhot 5b by Debbie Friedman


American singer-songwriter Debbi Friedman’s rendition of the traditional prayer for healing, Mi she-Beirakh, has become an anthem in the contemporary Jewish world.

The following video includes her lyrics in Hebrew transliteration and English translation.

Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba fell ill.
Rabbi Yohanan went to visit him.
Rabbi Yohanan asked, “Is your suffering dear
to you?”
Rabbi Hiyya answered, “No, and neither its
Rabbi Yohanan took his hand and healed
Rabbi Yohanan fell ill.
Rabbi Hanina went to visit him and asked, “Is
your suffering dear to you?” Rabbi Yohanan
said, “No, and neither its reward.”
Rabbi Hanina took his hand and healed him.
If Rabbi Yohanan could heal Rabbi Hiyya bar
Abba, why then, when he got sick, could he
not heal himself?
A prisoner cannot release himself from

— Babyonian Talmud Berakhot 5b

From this text, Debbie Friedman teaches, “We are not just the recipients of blessings, but the messengers of blessings as well. Remember, out of what emerges from life’s painful challenges will come our healing. And ultimately, our greatest healing will come when we use our suffering to heal another’s pain—’to release another from their confinement’ (Babyonian Talmud Berakhot 5b).”

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you understand the Talmudic statement that “a prisoner cannot release himself from confinement”?
  2. How do you respond to Debbie Friedman’s statement about suffering and healing? When has a painful challenge led to healing in your life?
  3. As you listen to Friedman’s Mi she-Beirakh prayer today, whom do you have in heart in mind?