In many congregations (especially the YU/OU/Young Israel affiliated) it is customary - sometimes even announced from the podium - to stand for the prayer for the State of Israel and the Israeli armed forces. In my current Shul, the prayer for the U.S. is also recited at the same interval and everyone stands throughout. But in the Shul I attended my entire childhood through adolescence, all of these were recited by the rabbi while the Torah was on the Bimah, immediately following the MiSheBerach(s) for the sick.

It is almost universal (with one notable exception that I can think of) that nobody is asked to stand, and that nobody specifically rises, for the MiSheBerachs for the sick. Hence, in my childhood Shul, nobody rose for any of these Tefilloth.

Why is it so commonly accepted that one must rise for the former but not for the latter type of communal Tefillah?

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    I disagree with "It is almost universal". – Double AA Feb 26 '13 at 21:46
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    @DoubleAA, as I said, I can think of one notable exception. But I've been to many hundreds of Shuls around the world, and I've never seen the Kehillah rise for the MiSheBerachs. If some individuals do, they do so unnoticed, and I've actually tried to notice if anyone stands just then. They're either standing for almost everything, appear to rise purely coincidentally, or they sit. Mostly they sit. At Kesher Israel, in Washington, DC, they formally ask the congregation to rise. That's the only place I can think of that does so. – Seth J Feb 26 '13 at 21:54
  • @DoubleAA, having said that, feel free to edit that part out or blunt it a little bit if you think it's too sharp a criticism. – Seth J Feb 26 '13 at 21:55
  • I assume it's meant as a prominent demonstration of respect towards the State of Israel and gratitude towards the IDF. Standing for the former, at least, strikes me as carrying political overtones. Presumably, a prayer for the U.S. Government and the state governments (especially for the top politicians) is also meant as a conspicuous display of patriotism, though the wording in the OU version seems a bit overdone (e.g. "from every trouble... may he rescue them" - like losing an election or not being able to achieve a harmful political objective?). – Fred Feb 27 '13 at 1:02
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    Just a note -- where I davened this morning, the person heading up the davening asked all there to "remain standing" after the chatzi kaddish so he could make a special mishebeirach for cholim instead of having people sit before ashrei while he made it. – rosends Feb 27 '13 at 21:48

Asking the congregation to stand for prayer X accomplishes two things:

  • It highlights that we believe in saying prayer X, and the value of X. (Such as a government.)

  • It [hopefully] helps with synagogue decorum. I've seen shuls institute standing for the Mi SheBerach for the ill to help cut down on the chitchat that goes on while reciting a long list of names.

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  • I have long wished that instead of saying "please rise for the mi sh'beirach for <Israel, Tzahal, gov't>", the gabbai would instead say, "Please remain silent for the mi sh'beirach..." – Ze'ev misses Monica May 22 '13 at 3:57

Many (but not all) prayer customs are just that - customs. Customs develop organically, without a conscious "Authorized Halakhic Rationale" serving as the reason why they should be enacted. They just develop - for sociological, or impromptu, or it-just-feels-right-and-makes-spiritual-sense reasibs - and if they organically catch on, well, then its a custom!

We can certainly guess as to the sociological reasons why standing for these mishebareich's developed and spread (way of expressing these prayers' particular spiritual importance in the lives of the congregation). But we would BE NAIVE to assume that one day someone got up and said: "For this particular reason and that particular reason we should now start doing X."

The same can be said for standing/sitting for kaddish, or answering Amen vs/ Brich Hu, or standing up during the end of Tachanun. Unless you have good reason to think that early on someone got up and gave a guiding reason, the minhag probably just developed organically.

After the fact, we can and should "read" these customs for the values they express. After all, these customs express the holy "Intuition of the Masses" of the Jewish people. No one got up and gave an explicit reason to start things off, but the community as a whole were attracted to some grammatical/spiritual/liturgical/halakhic truth which made them - as an organic mass - develop a given practice.

So too with standing/sitting for MiSheBareich's. Without any direct Halakhic order from above, the Jewish people are organically sensing certain liturgical/spiritual truths which make standing up obvious and appropriate for at some times, and less necessary at other times. If the custom really spreads and solidifies, then in a few centuries, expect Rabbis to look back and try to "read" these customs for the values they express.

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  • Your second to last paragraph belies a lack of knowledge on the subject matter. – Double AA Feb 28 '13 at 18:39
  • @DoubleAA Please clarify, my good sir/madam. – Ben Feb 28 '13 at 18:43
  • Why would you say that standing or sitting for kaddish just happened? You can't imagine someone deciding it is proper to stand for dvarim shebikdusha which are supposed to represent our sanctifying God (ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל)? Why would you say that Amen vs. Brich Hu just happened? You can't imagine that it relates to a grammatical/semantic difference in how to parse that sentence of Kaddish? – Double AA Feb 28 '13 at 18:49
  • The fact is authorities have made both the claims I presented. I agree completely that some minhagim just happen and we should honor and respect them and try to learn from/with them. But that doesn't mean you can just make up examples. – Double AA Feb 28 '13 at 18:49
  • @DoubleAA We both agree that some prayer customs develop organically and that some are more guided and reason-driven. The question is how to tell. In general, if reasons are only offered long after the fact, than it would be naive to think that said reasons were Well Known and Explicitly Stated by those who first started the minhag. Also, in general, if a halakhic text describes a ritual as "our minhag", without trying to provide a compelling rationale, there is no reason to assume they have one Well Known and Explicit rationale. – Ben Feb 28 '13 at 19:24

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