I get really good gifts while sitting shiva. Last time I got jewelry, and a bunch of books, and this time a friend of my parents left me a copy of A Jewish Womanâ€™s Prayer Book, edited by Aliza Lavie.
Normally, this is the kind of thing that makes me gag, because itâ€™s typically 7000% more religious than Iâ€™m interested in being, and comes with shlocky Artscroll commentary about how the most fulfilling thing any woman can do is give birth. Blech. But this book is different. Aside from being beautifully bound and printed, the scope of the book is remarkable. It has what you would expectâ€”prayers about getting married, having children, lighting candles and taking challahâ€”but also dozens of beautiful and obscure prayers written for other occasions, including a prayer for a son serving in the army, a paschal prayer, a prayer for removing the pitom from the Etrog, Queen Estherâ€™s Plea, prayer for an unhappy wife, and something called, “The Supplication of the Mothers for the Rebuilding of the Temple.”
Additionally, the prayers come from all over the world, not just the Ashkenazi tradition.Â The book includes a tahdid, a North African traditional celebration of motherhood in which the new motherâ€™s relatives gather in her home and recite liturgical poems and songs meant to ward off the evil eye. Thereâ€™s also an excerpt from a Haggadah written by a woman in Auschwitz.
When I first opened the book to flip through it I opened right to the Prayer for Single Women (Eema, is that you?) and there are great sections on Bnot Mitzvah, Illness, and Loss and Bereavement. I would say that this is a great gift for a bat mitzvah girl, but I think itâ€™s likely to sit on a shelf and get dusty if given to a 12-year-old. What this is, is an excellent gift for Motherâ€™s Day (only a month and a half away) or your momâ€™s birthday.
Pronounced: AHSH-ken-AH-zee, Origin: Hebrew, Jews of Central and Eastern European origin.
Pronounced: baht MITZ-vuh, also bahs MITZ-vuh and baht meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish rite of passage for a girl, observed at age 12 or 13.
Pronounced: huh-GAH-duh or hah-gah-DAH, Origin: Hebrew, literally “telling” or “recounting.” A Haggadah is a book that is used to tell the story of the Exodus at the Passover seder. There are many versions available ranging from very traditional to nontraditional, and you can also make your own.
Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.