Is there a blessing to say on receiving your Covid vaccinations?

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, January 28, 2021

Dear Solelniks,

As we anxiously await the rollout of Covid vaccines in Canada, anticipating the moment when we will be able to receive the vaccinations, many in our Jewish and spiritual communities have been considering how they will mark this moment. In the adult study course that I just finished teaching, “Spirituality, Healing and Wholiness: Rabbinic Textual Responses to Being Human”, we studied texts and responsa on the mitzvah of taking care of our bodies and our souls, and on facing illness and personal crisis. The last two sessions explored what Judaism teaches on medicine and vaccines, and the ethical responsa on allocation and the sanctity of life. As a siyyum, a completion of learning together, here are blessings that one may say upon receiving your Covid vaccinations:

Traditional Jewish Blessings, Appropriate for this Moment:

Shehechyanu is a blessing that is recited upon occasional events that spark gratitude, thanking God for permitting us to reach a milestone moment:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָּעוֹלָּם שֶהֶחֱיָּנוּ וְקִיְמָּנוּ וְהִגִיעָּנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh.

We praise You Eternal God, whose presence fills creation, you have kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.

Hatov V’hameitiv is a blessing recited to mark occasions that are considered to bring celebration to the entire community, and not just to an individual:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָּעוֹלָּם, הַטּוֹב וְהַמֵיטִיב

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, ha-tov v’hameytiv.

We praise You Eternal God, whose presence fills creation, who is good and bestows good.

From Asher Yatzar, the traditional blessing that thanks God for the proper functioning of our bodies:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, רוֹפֵא כָּל בָּשָּר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשוֹת

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, rofeh kol basar u’mafli la-asot.

We praise You Eternal God, Who heals all flesh and performs wonders.

A modern prayer:

A Prayer for Receiving the COVID Vaccine
I have been praying for this day and now it is here!
With great excitement, a touch of trepidation
And with deep gratitude
I give thanks
To all the scientists who toiled day and night
So that I might receive this tiny vaccination
That will protect me and all souls around this world.
With the pandemic still raging
I am blessed to do my part to defeat it.
Let this be the beginning of a new day,
A new time of hope, of joy, of freedom
And most of all, of health.
I thank You, God, for blessing me with life
For sustaining my life
And for enabling me to reach this awe-filled moment.
– Rabbi Naomi Levy, Spiritual Leader, Nashuva (Los Angeles)

As you anticipate your vaccinations, consider this background on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines:

On the eve of World War II, there were 60,000 Jews in Thessaloniki, Greece. Thessalonika, or Salonika, as it was known to Greek Jews in Ladino, at one time was one of the most Jewish cities in the world. In the early 20th century, Jews made up more than half the population of the city. It was a vibrant Jewish community in this port city where the port closed on Shabbat as most of the porters in the port of Thessaloniki were Jews.

Hitler came to Greece to secure the southern wing before launching his offensive against Russia. The Jewish community of Thessalonika was almost completely wiped out. Out of 60,000 Thessaloniki Jews, more than 50,000 were sent to Auschwitz- Birkenau where most of them perished. About 90% of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community perished during the war. The only place with a similarly high death rate was Poland.

Among the small community of survivors was the Bourla family, a family whose ancestors had arrived in Thessaloniki from Spain about six centuries ago after the expulsion in 1492. After the war, a son was born to the Bourla family, in 1961. They named him Israel Abraham (Albert).

He graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a PhD in veterinary medicine and worked as a veterinarian for a time. In 1993, Albert Bourla joined Pfizer, serving as a doctor of veterinary medicine and technical director for the company’s animal health division in Greece. At the age of 34 he left Thessaloniki with his wife Miriam to join Pfizer Europe, where he served in several different positions. They eventually moved to the US continuing to work for Pfizer, and had two children. In 2018, after 25 years at Pfizer, Albert Bourla was promoted to Chief Operating Officer and a year later, on January 1st 2019 he became Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer.

The head scientist at Pfizer is Mikael Dolsten, born in Sweden in 1958 to a Jewish father who had prewar roots in Sweden, and a Jewish mother who escaped from Austria in the early days of World War II.

Also in the race against time to develop a successful Covid vaccine is Moderna, an American biotech company. Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer is Israeli scientist Dr. Tal Zaks, who grew up in Israel. His father was president of the Israeli mathematical union, his mother still lives in Ra’anana, Israel. Zaks served in the IDF as a medic and earned his medical degree and doctorate at Ben Gurion University. He came to the United States to study tumor immunology at the National Cancer Institute and eventually began working in pharmaceutical development in the private sector to work on translating science into medicines, joining Moderna in 2015.

In the Spring of 2020, as Covid imperiled the lives of people around the world, these scientists led the efforts to find a vaccine which would be effective against COVID-19. It was developed in record time. The vaccines that will save the lives of millions of people around the world were developed and pushed forward by a son of Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki, a Jewish scientist from Sweden, and an Israeli scientist. Their work will save lives around the world.


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

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