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Influential and inspirational Jewish singer and songwriter Debbie Friedman, 59, died in California on Sunday, January 9. Her well-loved songs infused traditional prayers with spirituality and meaning for contemporary Jews, and today they are sung in Jewish communities across the country and around the world. Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly interviewed her in 2000, and she spoke about her most famous prayer put to song, “Mi Sheberach,” used in healing services in many synagogues.
DEBBIE FRIEDMAN: When people are sick, when they are emotionally sick, when they are physically sick, there’s a feeling that nobody could possibly understand what it feels like to be in this body or in this mind, in this heart, and it is so isolating and so painful, and when people come together in a healing service the secret’s out. Everybody knows that every single person there is struggling with the same pain.
We are doing these healing services because healing isn’t being addressed, until recently. We can’t talk about spirituality, and we can’t talk about God, and we can’t talk about sickness. And I think that spiritually if you don’t have the opportunity to exercise your heart and soul, you don’t really fully understand all that you are.
I think that each one of us is here for a purpose, and that is really the focus of my work—that each of us needs to acknowledge what blessings we carry within us, that it’s up to each one of us to give all that we have to the world. I’ve said this before, but we are not here for a free ride. We are here to do a job.