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Can a non-Jew say a Jewish prayer for a Jewish friend who is ill?

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Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

Question: Can a non-Jew say a Jewish prayer for a Jewish friend who is ill?

My Jewish friend is sick and I want to say a prayer for him. I'm not Jewish, however. Is it okay for me to say a Jewish prayer for him even though I am not Jewish? What prayer would be appropriate?

Answer: Please don't hesitate to pray for strength and hope - using whatever you might find in our tradition. For example, a traditional Jewish expression of worship and encouragement is to read from the Book of Psalms. They can be found in any Bible, although I prefer the translation in the Jewish Publication Society version entitled The TaNaKH.

There is absolutely nothing inappropriate or disrespectful for you to find meaningful prayers in the Jewish tradition that answer your hopes and resolve some of your religious and personal questions. I believe that this would be the opinion of virtually every Rabbi of whom I can think, and so, relax from any anxiety.

Thirdly, from my own personal religious point of view, your circumstances and those of your friend are not a punishment from God. Sometimes bad times and bad things just happen, and our prayers should not be for forgiveness but for encouragement and strength to endure and find our way through the troubles. A friend and colleague wrote a wonderful text upon the death of his son entitled "When Bad Things Happen To Good People" which emphasizes that we don't know why people suffer but that some do.

I hope and pray that you and your family and friends will soon find relief from your challenges and may the Book of Psalms provide you with the texts of relief. Should you want additional texts and prayers, speak with a local Rabbi who would welcome your request for a copy of a prayerbook I am sure.

Best wishes,
Rabbi Dov

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