The standard text of the Mi She-Berach prayer for the sick asks that G-d send healing "to his 248 limbs and 365 sinews."

What if someone, G-d forbid, lost a foot a few years ago; and now prayers are being recited for him (for some other condition)? He doesn't have all 248 limbs. (Unless you tell me it's intended according to R. Hayyim Vital's writings that we have 248 spiritual limbs in our soul too ...)

And for that matter, what about someone with polydactyly (extra fingers and/or toes, assuming they're in good working order)?

2 Answers 2


In Sefer Nishmat Avraham- Orach Chaim Siman 123 The Pardes Yosef offers a number of reasons why it is unnecessary to change the text of a prayer on his behalf. First: It is known that one's soul is considered to have "limbs" corresponding to the physical limbs of the body and, although he has lost one of his physical limbs, all of his spiritual "limbs" are still intact. Second: In spite of his missing a limb, he has not lost the potential to pass on the gene for that limb to his children; it is as if the limb is still contained within him. Finally: The prayer can be considered as referring to the collective body of the Jewish people and it is therefore irrelevant if it does not apply to a particular individual, since it is not directed at him personally, but rather to the nation as a whole.

Chazal teach us that, in contrast to men who have 248 limbs, women have 252 limbs. Because of this the text of the prayer recited for an ill woman was changes to: "and all of her limbs and her 365 sinews" instead of "248 limbs." However, there are many other who disagree, and believe that the text should not be changed since, in terms of halachah, a "limb" is defined as a part of the body which can cause a specific kind of ritual defilement. Since men and women are treated alike with regard to the laws of ritual defilement, only 248 can confer impurity. it is only these 248 limbs, therefore, that are considered significant as limbs, and it is for these limbs that we prater when we recite a prayer for a sick person.

  • Is your second paragraph also from Nishmas Avraham?
    – msh210
    May 20, 2016 at 17:21

By a lady - who has 252 limbs (Bechoros 45.) א"ר יהודה אמר שמואל מעשה בתלמידיו של ר' ישמעאל ששלקו זונה אחת שנתחייבה שריפה למלך בדקו ומצאו בה מאתים וחמשים ושנים אמר להם שמא באשה בדקתם שהוסיף לה הכתוב שני צירים ושני דלתות - we say L'Chol Aivoreho, U'Lchol Gideha - so I would think (no source yet) that if a man is either missing a limb or has extra that we would say L'Chol Avorov, U'Lchol Gidov.

  • where does it say a woman has 252? If I'm not mistaken, the count of 248 was derived from an autopsy of a woman who had been executed.
    – Shalom
    Aug 30, 2011 at 17:55
  • see also Ben Ish Chai hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=21525&pgnum=124 Aug 30, 2011 at 18:55
  • 2
    @Shalom: the Gemara that Gershon referenced is referring to that case of an autopsy, and it gives the figure 252. The count of 248 (for a man) comes from Oholos 1:8.
    – Alex
    Aug 30, 2011 at 22:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .