By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
"El Na Refa Na La" (Bamidbar 12:13)
Those who have not yet made Aliyah will be reading Parshat Behalotcha this Shabbat, in which the verse cited above is found. Although the universal custom of praying for the sick by mentioning their Hebrew name is well known, it actually might not be truly required. In fact, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu himself did not mention Miriam by name when he prayed that she be healed from her skin affliction.
The halachic authorities are somewhat divided on the need for mentioning the name of a sick individual when praying for them.
Click here to read moreThe halachic authorities are somewhat divided on the need for mentioning the name of a sick individual when praying for them. Indeed, a number of authorities rule that mentioning a name when praying for someone is optional. There is also a view that one does not mention the name of a sick individual when praying for them in their presence. However, when praying for them in the synagogue and the like, one is required to mention their name. Nevertheless, it is noted that when Yaakov was praying to be saved from his brother Esav he was very specific, mentioning not only his name, but also specifying that he was praying concerning the Esav who is his brother. Based on this precedent, the Zohar is adamant that one must always mention the name of the individual for whom one is praying.
The consensus of most halachic authorities is according to the opinion mentioned above, that when praying for someone in their presence their name need not be mentioned but should be mentioned at all other times. One who does not know the Hebrew name of the person one is praying for can use their English name. If, for some reason, one is unable to mention any name when praying for someone, one should still not hesitate to pray for them. In fact, one may even simply describe a person when praying for them. For example, when Esther was praying to be saved from Achashverosh she simply prayed "to be saved from the dog" without even mentioning his name. As such, one should not hesitate to pray: "God please send a refuah shleima to the person who I saw that was hit by a car this morning", and the like, as appropriate.
 Bamidbar 12:13, Shabbat 34a
 Pri Chadash O.C. 119
 Magen Avraham O.C. 119:1, Chatam Sofer;Nedarim 40a
 Bereishit 32:12
 Zohar Vayishlach 169
 Rashi;Bamidbar 21:1
 Megilla 15b
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin