Author Archives: Renee S. Septimus

About Renee S. Septimus

Renee Septimus works as a geriatric social worker and teaches a course, "Jewish Thought and Culture," at the 92nd Street Y. She lectures on various Jewish topics as well as on women's spirituality, parenting, and aging. She began writing tehines several years ago for women's lifecycle events.

Tehine for Passover

Reprinted with the permission of the author.

We have all, at one time, faced the often overwhelming task of preparing for Pesach with dismay and dread. However, it seems to me that it is precisely this work which allows the family to celebrate a kosher holiday and, as such, it is sacred work and should be approached and appreciated as such. This tehine consecrates the tasks and may be said at the beginning of the preparations or, with some modifications, before the formal opening of the Seder.

Ribono shel olam [Lord of the Universe], I am about to begin the sacred task of preparing for the holy season of Pesach. You, God, who liberated us from our oppressors many years ago, commanded us to make the Pesach offering, to refrain from chametz and to celebrate with happiness. And so I, according to your instruction, will clean my home and my heart, prepare the ritual meals and rejoice in this holiday, remembering your love and salvation.

As Sarah our mother quickly ran to bake matzah for her guests, as Rivka cooked the matamim [food delicacies] for Yitzchak with attention and devotion to a higher cause, as the Isha Hashunamit [the Shunamite woman] prepared her house for the prophet Elisha, so may I complete my tasks with concentration and alacrity.


Dear God, grant me the patience and good cheer to do these often tiring, tedious chores with the same vigilance the kohanim [priests] and leviim [Levites] brought to their labors. May my kavannah [focus] as I clean be like that of the levi’im who cleaned the Beit Hamikdash [Temple]. May it be like that of the kohanim who brought the sacrifices, as I cook. May the smells from the bountiful food you have blessed us with be as pleasing as the ktoret [insense] in your holy Temple.

Ribono shel olam, with trepidation I pray that the tasks I accomplish will enable us to celebrate Pesach secure in the knowledge that this sacred work was done according to Your will.

Dear God, my heart delights in the thought of our children around our table. May they give me and my beloved husband nachas [pride] for many, many years and may we see our family grow and prosper. May our children not be scattered far from home so that we may easily and frequently be together and rejoice in them always.

Dear God, bless the labor of my hands and all my endeavors so the holy work I am about to do will be acceptable to you, will find favor in your eyes and may I, in its merit, deserve the blessings you have bestowed upon me. Amen.

Mikvah Prayer

Reprinted with permission of the author. Also published on Ritualwell.org.

Tehines, prayers written in Yiddish which flourished in the 17th through 19th centuries, were written to express the unique spiritual concerns of women. They have recently been reaching a new audience thanks to feminist scholarship. The tehine below is an original, modern tehine that  uses traditional tehine language and style but also expresses a contemporary sensibility about an ancient ritual.

Ribono shel olam, God of Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, I stand before You as have countless generations of Jewish women, about to immerse in the waters of your holy presence.

 

Bless me, dear God, in body and in spirit. Keep me, and those I love, healthy, safe and strong. Protect and nurture me the way a mother does her child. Bind me and my beloved husband in a long, peaceful, harmonious marriage. Give my children easy lives without strain or struggle. [Give me children who will have lives without strain or struggle.]

Grant me fulfillment and a generous sustenance from my livelihood.

Ribono shel olam, lead me in the path of righteousness and help me use my abilities to repair this broken world. Help me ease and gladden the lives of those I cherish. Give me the vision to recognize my unique capacity to make the world a better place, and the courage and stamina to do so.

Dear God, you created the world from a womb of water. You made me in your image, pure and holy, according to your will. I thank you for my miraculous body which keeps its own rhythms as do the sun and moon, the seasons, the Shabbos and the Holy Days. I bless your sacred name as I ask for your blessing upon me and those I love.

As I immerse in the mikveh waters, I am ever more aware of my dependence upon you. I know that my life is sustained by your mercy.

Be kind and beneficent to me. Help me purify my life from pain and sorrow, from bad influences, from my own faults and inadequacies.

As these waters embrace me, dear God, may I embrace your presence in and around me at all times and in all space, Amen.