A few weeks ago, at Torah study, Rabbi Greenberg revealed something unexpected. He said, “One of the greatest regrets of my rabbinate is that I did not put back in our prayers the words “Mechiye HaMetim,” Blessed is God, who revives of the dead.” This ancient Jewish phrase forms the concluding words of the Gevurot prayer, the second prayer of the Amida.
I agree with Rabbi Greenberg’s belief that the concept of spiritual revival can be helpful in our lives. About 150 years ago, the expression “revives the dead” (Mechiye HaMetim) was removed from Reform prayer books. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who removed it, worried that people might mistakenly think Judaism believes in bodily resurrection. Wise was concerned people would misunderstand the prayer’s poetic and spiritual intent.
In traditional Jewish literature the expression “revives the dead,” is used widely as a metaphor. The Talmud says there are three occasions when one should say “Blessed is God who revives the dead.” The first is when you meet a friend you have not seen in 12 months. Second, when you wake up from sleep. Third, when you see the rain fall on dry earth. In these three cases we can see this expression is clearly a metaphor and not literal.
14 years ago, when the new prayer book of Reform Judaism, Mishkan Tefilla, came out, the original phrase “Blessed is God who revives the dead,” “Mechiye HaMetim,” was returned to our prayer book. Even though these words are in our Reform prayer book, till now our congregation has not actually said these words.
I am deeply moved by the restoration of the original prayer to Reform Judaism and our prayer book.I think “revival of the dead” is an expression of hope when we might feel spiritually numb or like dead. “Revival of the dead” can be understood as finding the will to live after depression or mourning. The “revival of the dead” describes the story of the Jewish people. In recent times we have seen the revival of Jewish life in the State of Israel. We have witnessed the revival of Hebrew as a Modern Language.
As we come out of Covid, “revival of the dead” can serve us as a metaphor to energize our return to normal life.
We are 50 days from Rosh HaShana. I look forward to seeing you at Caramoor. May our coming together be filled with a spirit of revival and healing.
May our High Holy Days be filled with a spirit of revival and hope.
When we see each other again soon at Caramoor, may we experience a revival of our feelings of connection to our friends at Shaaray Tefila.
Baruch Ata Adonai Mechiye Hametim.
Blessed are You, God, who gives us spiritual hope through the metaphor of revival.
Rabbi David Wilfond