Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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To bless or not to bless at the covid vaccination?

On any doubt if to get the vaccine, see this article! Arutz7 has just joined the Scientific Age. High time for an important Israeli news outlet.

I’ve blogged that Jews don’t make a blessing before EVERY good we do.

What blessing should you say when you get the COVID-19 vaccine? The JTA asked rabbis from all kinds of denominations for their guidance.

Here follows what I thought about their suggestions followed by my additions. I’m not (even close to being) a rabbi, so you can read without feeling obligated. But when you ask your rabbi, it’s good that you thought about alternatives and issues so that you know what exactly to ask.

  • The most obvious candidate is Shehecheyanu vekeeyemanu veheegee’anu lazeman hazeh, to grant that it is G^d [Alone] Who kept us alive, in existence, and made us arrive at this day.

We make this Blessing upon hearing good news, seeing good things happening, or before seeing/eating new fresh fruits.

But, then we should have made this blessing when we heard that a vaccine is approved, not when we get it. Like, when you suddenly see a really good friend haven’t seen or heard from in a very long time. But also when you meet at an appointment you made? Maybe you make the blessing when you called and talked to them on the phone to make the appointment.

But, we do make this Blessing when we acquire something exceptional.

  • A next obvious one is She’asah lee nes bamakom hazeh, Who has done a miracle for me in this place.

My question is if that miracle was at the place you get vaccinated or in your house when you finally managed to make an appointment. (I’m only half-joking.) Also, this Blessing we make (once a year) when we revisit the place where it happened, not at the moment of the miracle.

  • Shenatan meichochmatoh levasar vadam [not the four-fold faulty JTA transliteration], Who gave of His wisdom to flesh and blood.

We say this when we see an exceptional scientist (Einstein) but not the lab tech who’s pricking you (probably, no offense).

This seems a very potent candidate. We make this Blessing when something good is happening to ourselves and others together. The vaccination both protects the vaccinated and everyone around them.

But, it seems we always say this before something pleasant, not just good.

  • Hagomeil lechayeveem tovot shemegalani koltuv, Who gives good to the obligated/undeserving and gave me all the good.

We make this Blessing when the threat has passed of four specific dangers. Full recovery is not needed. Problem is that we can’t say it for having been bystanders. Seeing a vehicle crash into someone else doesn’t count. This Blessing doesn’t seem to fit. It does for recovery of the dangerously sick.

Other Blessings?

A Blessing at fulfilling a Commandment we only seem to say on things specific for Jews: Asher kiddeshanu beMitzvotav veTzivanu l… In this case, we could add: lishmor nafshotechem, Who made us holy by commanding us and commanded us to guard our health. Yet, to create a Blessing with G^d’s Name in it is not possible even for the greatest (Orthodox) Rabbis.

We do have an existing Blessing that we say when we see a rainbow: Zocher habereet vene’eman bivrito vekahyam bemaamaroh, Who keeps in mind the Covenant [with Noach not to destroy all life again — Genesis 9:9-17], and Who is true to His Covenant, and stands by His Word.

Problem is that the coronavirus pandemic, when left to itself, would ‘only’ kill 1-5% of all people. That’s not extermination. Though, we don’t let hundreds of millions of people die for it’s ‘only’ a few percentage points.

Three More Issues

There is more to this problem than just which blessing to make.

Witch of Without G^d’s Name and Amen?

At many outstanding Commandments, we say no Blessing (before having intercourse, giving charity, etc.). It seems to me we don’t make a Blessing when it comes at the expense of others. The general Jewish approach to making a Blessing is: When in doubt, cut it out. (On Shabbat and Yom Kippur we may be a bit more lenient to get to 100 blessings a day.)

When we make a blessing without the Name, many around us will still (erroneously) answer Amen, which is a sin we then caused. So, either we need to warn people not to say Amen (and still, some will) or not do this.

Not using the classic blessing’s formula makes it certainly OK. Like making a heartfelt: “Thank G^d for the scientists and workers and politicians who made and distributed this vaccine and that I get vaccinated already now today.” And bystanders can respond Amen to that without a problem.

Before, After the First Injection, or Later?

One doesn’t make a Blessing over a new child during birth when it’s still going to hurt and we don’t know the outcome. But we do make a Blessing over the acquisition of a house though it may burn down the next minute.

We make the blessing over the purchase of a new house at the acquisition when we are at our happiest and not later when troubles (stress, movers, leakage) may have started.

Blessings over the performance of a Commandment we say before the act.

So, if we make a blessing over the vaccination, it seems best to say it before the needle hits the skin. We don’t wait and see if we are among the few people who’d get an anaphylactic shock or any side effects from it.

Alone or in a Minyan?

In a Minyan makes it thankful when many say Amen. But, when the whole community got vaccinated, not to the community stress, probably one should make the blessing for all, which for Ashkenazics is not the best.

My Recommendation

After you asked if they have the epinephrine handy (against anaphylactic shock, Heaven forbid), and after asking everyone around you to say Amen, in a language understood by them, you make a heartfelt blessing as in: “Thank G^d for the scientists and workers and politicians who made and distributed this vaccine and that I get vaccinated already now today.”

ברוך השם על המדענים והעובדים והפוליטיקאים שיצרו ושהפיצואת¯החיסון הזה ושאני מתחסן כבר עכשיו.

baruch hashem ‘al hamadah’eem vehah’ovdeem vehappolitikahyeem shereetzu ushehepheetzu et-hacheesun hazzeh ushe’annee mitchassein kevar achshav.

Two Recent Alternatives

Chief Rabbi Sh’muel Eliyahu of Safed, northern Israel, wrote a special blessing to say before the first injection [my traditional translation]:

We thank you, O L^rd our G^d, and G^d of our ancestors, G^d of all flesh. Creator of healing. You have endowed humans with knowledge and gave humankind understanding to discover and to invent immunization against the plague.

May it be Your will that this vaccination will stop the spread of the plague and save the lives of thousands upon thousands over the whole world.

Please, G^d, send complete healing to all the sick of Your People. Please, save us from any bad side effects. O G^d, heal us, and we will be healed; save us, and we will be saved, because in You alone we trust. And make a cure come forth for all our ailments, all our pains, and all our plagues. Because only You are a G^d Who is merciful and can be trusted to heal.

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, my Rock and my Redeemer.

מודִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ ה’ אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ אֱלהֵי כָל בָּשָׂר. בּוֹרֵא רְפוּאוֹת. שאַתָּה חונֵן לְאָדָם דַּעַת וּמְלַמֵּד לֶאֱנושׁ בִּינָה לִמְצֹא וּלְהַמְצִיא חִסּוּן לַמַּגֵּפָה.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ שֶׁהַחִסּוּן הַזֶּה יִמְנַע אֶת הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַמַּגֵּפָה וְיַצִּיל חַיִּים שֶׁל אַלְפֵי רְבָבוֹת בָּעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ.

אָנָּא ה’ שְׁלַח רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה לְכָל חולֵי עַמֶּךָ. הִצִּילָנוּ מִכָּל תּוֹפְעוֹת הַלְּוַאי, רְפָאֵנוּ ה’ וְנֵרָפֵא הושִׁיעֵנוּ וְנִוָּשֵׁעָה כִּי תְהִלָּתֵנוּ אָתָּה. וְהַעֲלֶה אֲרוּכָה וּמַרְפֵּא לְכָל תַּחֲלוּאֵינוּ. וּלְכָל מַכְאובֵינוּ וּלְכָל מַכּותֵינוּ. כִּי אֵל רופֵא רַחְמָן וְנֶאֱמָן אָתָּה.

יִהְיוּ לְרָצון אִמְרֵי פִי וְהֶגְיון לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ. ה’ צוּרִי וְגאֲלִי.

***

Pittsburgh rabbis also promote a new blessing for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Their first blessing is an abbreviated form of the Blessing we say after using the bathroom with a little extension: … beedei chol-yoshevei teiveil, meaning: … via the hands of all the inhabitants of the Earth. I understand that the word ‘all’ is to not focus on Jews exclusively, but now it looks like G^d can only work wonders via all humans working in tandem with Him.

For the traditional among us I suggest to use the restroom before the vaccination and to say the traditional Blessing before the jab, and if one so chooses, to add the new extension mentioned above. If one hears this, it’s best not to wait saying Amen too long after the traditional part has ended.

The Shehecheyanu I wouldn’t say (see above) unless one’s really happy. Like this oncologist.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To find his earlier blog posts on a certain subject XXX, among his over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". His second daily active less tame blog, to which one may subscribe, one may find here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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