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In my shul, people mention or write the name of a sick person on a slip of paper and give this to the rabbi who adds it to an existing stack of names. Since I am the Torah reader, I announce Mi Sheberach and include these names at the end of each Torah reading. The list averages about 40 - 50 names.

At the end of the month, the rabbi announces that he is cleaning up the stack and he discards "old" names unless someone specifically requests that the name remain on the list. The main problem is that for many of the names that are there, the person that requested it is not a regular shul attendant. So we have a strange dilemma. If we delete the name, that person may still be sick. If we keep saying Mi Sheberach for that person, that person may have either recovered or, worse, died. We have no way of knowing. No, the rabbi has no way to contact the requester because the slip of paper just has a name, and we don't know who requested it.

My question is - is it OK to delete a sick person's name based on assuming automatically that the person doesn't need it, or do we have to say Mi Sheberach for someone indefinitely if we have no way of knowing the person's status. Is the rabbi correct in employing this strategy?

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My weekday minyan used to have this problem (I saw the list climb to 120+ names at one point, a real tircha d'tzibur for a community that averages 10-15 attendees on a weekday). We addressed it in two ways: (a) requiring people to say who was requesting it (not just who the choleh is), and (b) making it known that the list is flushed at the end of each month. They announced that policy at every service for several months before starting to do it. –  Monica Cellio Jun 27 at 3:26
Announcing that the list is flushed monthly is a big help. Also to cut down on time: One synagogue I frequent has two gabaim split the list: each recites a "mi sheberach" and ends with "... v'nomar amen" offset from the other by a few seconds so that the congregation says "amen" twice. –  msh210 Jun 27 at 6:20
@MonicaCellio - I agree that having such a large list IS a tircha detzibur esp. on a weekday. (I have to catch a bus). I read fast, but, when I do, I feel a bit "guilty" as I am not giving proper kavanah to those that need it. I also have to inquire about my shul's "contradictory" and "backwards" policy. During weekdays I say all of them. On Shabbat, I say just the beginning of the prayer and every individually inserts the name(s) silently. I have the list, so I say these names silently. I guess it's to save time not including the extra names (more people in shul on Shabbat.) –  DanF Jun 27 at 12:59
Since I see the timing of the comments from Monica and msh210 were placed overnight in EST, can I correctly assume that both of you live in Israel? –  DanF Jun 27 at 13:01
@DanF no, that would be incorrect. :-) –  Monica Cellio Jun 27 at 13:55

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I had this question myself, so I asked on the Chabad "Ask the Rabbi" website and this is the answer I received:


while it is important to pray for the sick, there is also a very important halacha which is the concept of "Tircha D'tzebura" loosely translated as not causing the congregation extra or undue burden and wait for the congregation. This concept is actually the reasoning behind various things we do (or don't do) in Shul. Having the congregation wait while over fifty names are read, is indeed burdensome for some in the congregation, however, at the same time, it is also very important to pray for those who need it. Your Rabbi seems to be doing the smart and proper thing of striking a balance between the need for prayers and the halachik concept of not overburdening the congregation...

Have a great shabbos, Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin

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There is a very extensive discussion of this question (or at least a similar enough question) involving a consider amount of back and forth, in the teshuvos of the Nachalas Shiva (a student of the Taz). His conclusion is quoted by the Shaarei Teshuvah (288:3)

עיין בשו"ת נחלת שבעה סי' ל"ט שעשה מעשה לברך החולה בשבת בבה"כ אע"פ שהחולה לא היה שם בעיר רק בישוב שהיה רחוק מהלך שעה ויותר ודלא כלקוטי מהרי"ל שכתב שאין לברך כשאינו בעיר דשמא מת או הבריא ע"ש מגיטין דאפי' הניחו זקן או חולה נותנו לה בחזקת שהוא קיים וגדול אחד כתב להעמיד דברי מהרי"ל והוא חזר והשיב לו ע"ש מסי' ע"ז עד סי' פ"א

See Responsa Nachlas Shiva, where they prayed for a sick person in the shul despite the fact that he wasn't in the city, rather he was from a farther city. This is against the Maharil, who wrote that one should not pray [for the sick who is] not in the city, because he may have died or became healthy, but [the reasoning of the Nachlas Shiva is sourced in] the Gemara/laws of Gittin that even if a person is left sick or elderly, he is assumed to have remained that way [and not assumed to have died, so the woman may not remarry].

The above quote is referring the Teshuvah 39, but someone had written a letter to the Nachlas Shivah arguing this point, and the two of them go back and forth in several letters, numbered teshuvos 77-80.

Thus, it appears that the more correct practice would be to keep the names on the list indefinitely. However, tircha detzibura is probably a greater concern in contemporary shuls than in those of the Nachalas Shiva and Shaarei Teshuva, because there are many more people on the list who would be from 'out of town', so this isn't such a definitive answer (if something to consider).

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On the contrary, ticha detzibura is probably less of a concern nowadays, when almost invariably the shul will recite the prayer. Back then reciting the prayer on Shabbat was probably a novelty. –  Double AA Jul 6 at 5:50
@DoubleAA yeah I think so too, even though by the time of the Shaarei Teshuvah it seems like it was starting to be common (because he mentions saying it even for a choleh shein bo sakana). But when there's a long list of 50 names or so, as opposed to a list of only a couple... –  Matt Jul 6 at 6:12

This is not a formal answer to my own question, but I figured this info would be more noticeable to readers if it were an answer rather than a comment.

I located an on-line Mi Sheberach manager, http://www.misheberachlcholim.org/pages/view/About_CLM

I just registered as Gabbai, and I included one of my friends. This looks very helpful! I will update my answer when I can get one of my shul members or rabbi to enter a few names in there. Offhand, I think this type of system will simplify the problem and perhaps get members to help us manage this list as they can delete the name themselves!

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Is your question "can we remove..." or "how can we fix this problem of names being there forever"? I commented (rather than answering) about the latter because it didn't address the former, but your answer doesn't address the former either. Please clarify (edit the question as necessary). Thanks. –  Monica Cellio Jun 27 at 19:45
@MonicaCellio - I edited the title of the question. My answer does address one way on how it can be done ... somewhat. How to correct the problem - I don't think has a definitive answer, as the premise in my question is that we don't know the status of everyone, so we have to assume things. You make a valid point, though. But, I think the more important question is discovering if we can automatically assume that a person whom we know nothing about is well enough that we can delete him in the 1st place. I may have to put a bounty on my question, anyway... –  DanF Jul 1 at 15:04
Thanks for the edit to the question. Since it now asks what the halacha is, can you say how this answers that question? You seem to be answering "how should we manage the list", but that's not the question you asked. What am I missing? –  Monica Cellio Jul 1 at 18:26
Hi Monica - I did state at the beginning of my own answer that this was not a formal answer, but I placed the info so that people would notice a useful web site. I know it doesn't answer my direct question. But, if the answer is that it is OK to do so, then, the web site would offer a way on how to do it. –  DanF Jul 1 at 20:34

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