During leining, many synagogues have someone recite a prayer on behalf of sick people. The version I grew up with was for cholim (males) with the language including a reference to רמ"ח איבריו ושס"ה גידיו (the 248 bones and the 365 tendons (according to some).

In many places, a separate version is said for women, including the phrase לכל איבריה ולכל גידיה (all her bones and all her tendons). In some congregations, only this broader version is used so that sick people of both genders can be listed together.

If the version for a woman would also be relevant to a man ("All" would include the 248/365 combination) why do some congregations continue to have two separate prayers? Is there a particular value to keeping the men and women separate in prayer? Is there something lesser about the general construction that we want to avoid by using the more specific one?

  • 1
    I’d actually think the male version would work for both genders, rather than the female one, as the default gender in Hebrew is masculine, and if there’s a group of people including men and women their plural is masculine.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 13:56
  • Similar judaism.stackexchange.com/q/88839/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 14:03
  • Same shaylah: bhol.co.il/forums/…
    – MDjava
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


According to Bechorot 45a, the number of limbs for a woman is a bit more than 248 (either 252 or 253). Therefore, using the 'standard' formulation of saying '248 limbs' would not work for females. Additionally, since there seems to be disputes between different works as to the 'correct' number of limbs for a woman (besides for the dispute in Bechorot, the Ba'al Haturim on Bamidbar 5:18 quoted in the OU article mentioned in the question does seem to imply that the number is 248), the simplest thing would be to 'genericize' the text when making a Mi Shebeirach for women.

As to why it matters if the number said during the Mi Shebeirach is mistaken: Rashi on Devarim 21:1 mentions an idea that an 'inaccurate' prayer is 'inaffective'. While it's unclear why that should make a difference (after all, Hashem knows what we intend), the implications from that Rashi are twofold:

  1. Ideally, one should be as exact with their Tefillos as possible (this is implied by the fact that Bnei Yisrael wanted to give an exact prayer, but due to extenuating circumstances, had to give a generic prayer).
  2. If one cannot be exact, it is better to fall back to a more 'generic' version of a prayer than to possibly give an innacurate one (as is seen by the fact that Bnei Yisrael felt that they had to do a generic prayer).

Based on those two points, since a Mi Shebeirach can be said for men with a more specific formulation, we try to do that, while women have to be given a 'generic' formulation since we are unable to do anything more specific.

  • If specificity was a desire (do you have a citation for the claim in !3 that one should be as exact as possible) then, according to those that hold (as the OU article states), that 365 was for days in a solar year, then the female formulation should include that a woman's year is the same as a man's.
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 19:38
  • @rosends The claim in bullet point 1 is my own implication from the reading of Rashi. Not sure what your point about days in a solar year has to do with mentioning the number of tendons in Mi Shebeirach, although it's a good question why it doesn't say the number of tendons for women (assuming it's unanimously agreed to be 365). Although that might be simply due to consistency in the wording (i.e. 'all limbs and all tendons' instead of 'all limbs and 365 tendons'). Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 19:53
  • Specificity is a value in Hilchot Berachot. Note, however, that Halacha does not follow the most extreme specificity oriented position, as we hold one makes a Ha'adama on vegetables, and not a בורא מיני דשאים. (Berachot 35a, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 205:1)
    – MDjava
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 3:21

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