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Sample Rituals

Wedding Ritual to Bind Step-Families
By Linda Kriger

Invite the children of the couple to join their parents under the huppah and address them:

You stand here today two families about to join together. This is a joyous moment for the two of you whose commitment brings each of your families to the brink of a new life.

What begins here is something quite new. You children are being carried along by the love between each of your parents. They are making a pledge to you as well as to each other. Yet we know that this ceremony is only the statement of intention of a new way of life.

It will take time to grow into this new family. New people to get used to, new routines, new habits, new relationships.

How holy a task it is to build a relationship with stepchildren. What merit there is to accept into your life your step brothers, your step sisters and your step-parent. You may feel a bit disoriented today, but those who love you hope that the promise of strong connections with your new family will carry you forward. We understand that you will always belong to your original parents. That will not change with this wedding ceremony. May you open your hearts to include the new members of your expanded family and may you accumulate wisdom and appreciation for what your new family members have to offer you and what you will bring to them in the years to come.

Baruch atah adonay, ruah haolom, shehechiyano, v'kiyimanu, v'higianu, laz man hazeh.
Blessed is God, spirit of the world, who brings us to this day.

Used by permission of the author

A Ner Nishamah
By Lori Lefkovitz, Ph.D. and Rabbi Lenny Gordon

The lighting of a candle, a ner nishamah or "soul candle," marks the entry of a child into the covenant and memorializes the souls of those for whom the child is named.

We remember my grandfather Samuel and my aunt, Esther. We light this candle in gratitude for our fortune and we offer this blessing:

Blessed are You, Source of All Life, for the light You have brought into our lives, for love, for birth, for our daughter, Samara Esther. May she come to know You and study Your ways. May she be blessed always with the Shechinah Your divine presence so that she can reflect divine light wherever she goes.

A Learning Opportunity to Engage and Expand Torah

In the biblical era, Shavuot marked the beginning of the grain harvest. The new agricultural season was also marked by bringing new fruits to the Temple. After the Temple's destruction in 70 CE, the nature of the holiday changed, and it began to be associated with the Revelation at Sinai. The holiday of Shavuot celebrates God's gift of the Torah to the Jewish people.

In ways unprecedented in Jewish history, women are renewing our connection with Sinai through study and engagement of Torah. For example, it is only in recent years that women have begun to study Talmud in increasingly large numbers. Shavuot is celebrated with an all-night study session, a tikkun leil shavuot, at which traditional texts are studied. The biblical text associated with Shavuot is the Book of Ruth, a pastoral romance that uniquely represents the collaborative and redemptive friendship of women.

Today Jewish women write ourselves back into history and engage in a dialogue with Jewish texts. Women have for years learned what the men heard at Sinai. Now we have the opportunity to reclaim our relationship to Torah and to hear the revelation for ourselves. As Jewish feminist theologian Judith Plaskow writes in her book Standing Again at Sinai, Jewish feminists must "reclaim Torah as our own. We must render visible the presence, experience, and deeds of women erased in traditional sources. We must tell the stories of women's encounters with God and capture the texture of their religious experience. We must expand the notion of Torah to encompass not just the five books of Moses and traditional Jewish learning, but women's words, teachings and actions hitherto unseen." (p.28) Our interpretations and reactions are necessary to make Judaism whole.

Having a tikkun with a women's group such as a synagogue sisterhood, or a Rosh Hodesh (new month) group, is an opportunity to take up Plaksow's challenge by including Jewish women's texts in your study/learning. Use the Shavuot or Feminist Torah Commentary sections of Rituallwell.org's bibliography for texts that will expand and enhance your study of Torah. These books are available through online bookstores or from your local Jewish bookstore.

Where to have your Shavuot ritual:
Tikkunim (pl.) often take place in a communal space such as a synagogue or community center. This can be good for ensuring enough space and facilities for both food and study. However, some people prefer a more intimate setting and choose to invite others to their homes to study during the evening. If you do this, make sure that you have a good supply of coffee, tea, bagels, and dessert to get you through the night. Also make sure to have enough copies of the texts you will be studying.

Some suggested women's Tikkun topics:
  • Women and Revelation
  • Biblical Women
  • Women and Leadership in Jewish Text Throughout the Ages
  • Women and Time in Texts and In Our Lives

Consult the works in the bibliography for inspiration. See especially the wonderful and provocative essays, fiction, and poetry by contemporary Jewish women on different aspects of the biblical book of Ruth in the anthology by Judith A. Kates and Gail Twersky Reimer, Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story (Ballantine Books, 1994).