I am a proud single mom.
I have, in my personal opinion, the two best kids on earth.
I am a professional at a global Fortune 500 company.
Even with those blessings, I recently had a year of trial. All at once my income, health, and living situation were in crisis.
Professionally, I was involved in designing, authoring, and moving a weighty regulatory process forward in my state. It was a very fraught political process, which was being handled all while dealing with my personal issues – all during this year of trial.
I had no traditional support and turned to my shul and Jewish Family Service for assistance to move my small family to safety (and even at times to feed us) as I got back on my feet. There were moments of deep and true fear.
I was the lowest I had ever been.
At that time, I started going to Friday night services. It was my first time choosing to go to services for me (not out of “obligation”, family, or tradition). Just because I needed something – hope. It brought me to a place where I could heal. I also started going on Saturdays and reading the translation of the Torah, too.
That brought me to a place where I could grow. Instead of “losing” myself in the service, I started to really read the prayers, the translations, to understand WHAT I was singing.
At my shul, we have a tradition of reciting the blessing of the children prior to the oneg blessings on Friday nights. One day it hit me – I did not identify with the journeys of the named Matriarchs. My path was so different. I did not want to bless or be “blessed” like that.
It felt inauthentic to me and my journey, my needs, my experience as a Jewish woman.
At the same time I had become more and more engaged with three women – amazing, self-directed, Jewish women.
I saw myself so clearly in them in ways I had not in any other Torah story, male or female. I saw the women I know and love or deeply respect in my own life reflected in them. These women were all faced with horrific situations that have largely been ignored by most prayers or discussions I knew.
I began peppering my rabbis with questions about these things, and Rabbi Neil Blumoff challenged me to write my own prayers.
When I answered his challenge, the following prayers erupted out of me. I still cry every time I read or listen to my prayers.
Who are they for or how are they to be used?
They are prayers for all people, designed to be used in symphony, or broken into five individual prayers.
They are my prayers to lift up what I see as the best in our faith: that despite odds that seem insurmountable, when things feel beyond your control, when you feel abandoned by those that were meant to love and protect you – do not despair and do not simply pray – ACT.
Do not act only for yourself when possible, no matter how extreme your circumstances. It is our calling as Jews to bring others with us. All who seek hope, freedom, and peace.
I hope people find meaning in this prayer when they bless their children each week. I hope they use it in conjunction with Pesach and Purim. I hope they use it when they need it most. But most of all, I hope they use it to lift their loved ones and/or themselves up to the highest ideals of what it is to be Jewish, to be a people of choice, action, and change.
The Prayer of the Matriarchs of Agency, Choice, and Action:
This can be one MASSIVE prayer, and it can be broken up into four total prayers – The prayer of Yocheved; the Prayer of Hadassah; The Prayer of Miriam; The “Daily use” Prayer of the Matriarchs of Agency, Choice, and Action.
Prayer of Yocheved
May you be Brave when called to Action like Yocheved.
Not all who are challenged get a reprieve.
When called by G-d, to sacrifice his son
When given a reprieve, Abraham gladly accepts.
Yocheved was given no such relief.
Yocheved was a simple woman,
Challenged greatly by G-d,
In a horrific way.
A terrified slave
A mother, desperate to save a child.
She left as little to chance as possible:
Watertight basket to float,
Made from the only resource available,
Reeds she found on the shore.
A sister to watch over from the banks.
Yocheved was a simple woman,
Challenged greatly by G-d,
In a horrific way.
Yocheved placed her child into a basket she wove,
A basket or a casket,
she could not have really known.
She would have known
how crazy the plan seemed.
Yocheved acted anyway.
May you have her bravery:
In the face of great adversity.
When circumstance seem like they are beyond your control.
When you face a challenge with nothing but your heart and mind.
Yocheved caused a chain of events which
Not only saved her own child; family,
But ALL Jews and any who sought freedom with them.
May you Be like Yocheved who used her resources,
Though to most there might appear to be none,
To make a miracle.
May you approach all issues like Yocheved,
May you have her Bravery to Act.
Prayer of Hadassah
May you be like Hadassah
when faced with circumstances
outside of your control:
Young, a slave in a gilded cage.
Not even left her body
or her name.
Sold by her family for their benefit,
At her peril.
Charged with cleaning up the mess
Of grown men,
who were supposed to protect this child.
This human-trafficked child,
found the resources in her own cunning
Her own heart.
Even though she was young,
She chose courage.
Courage is choosing to do the right thing
Despite the fear you feel.
There can be no bravery without also feeling fear.
Her courage gave her intellect the power she needed.
Her choice to believe in a plan she alone created,
That put her in harms direct path.
She chose wisely.
Hadassah chose bravely.
She chose with great care.
In her thoughtfulness
She saved not just herself,
But ALL Jews in Shushan.
In your darkest moments,
In your loneliest hour,
My prayer is you will be strong, brave, and caring
Hadassah single handedly saved not only herself,
But all her people in the most exquisitely Jewish way.
With the power of her mind and heart.
May you be cunning of mind, caring of heart,
and thoughtful like Hadassah.
Hadassah who used her mind to assume power
That had been forcibly taken from her.
Prayer of Miriam
May you be a righteous hellraiser like Miriam.
May you force so much change,
That you make men uncomfortable for
CENTURIES after your death.
May your contributions be so daring,
Most will be unable to handle the light you shine.
May those who are not worthy to stand in your light
Be forced to turn away.
May you be as strong in your beliefs
And convictions, when you know something to be TRUE,
That you never lose sight of your convictions, like Miriam.
Miriam (a slave CHILD) is the one who thinks
To place Moses in the water,
where Pharaoh’s daughter will find him.
Miriam guides Moses
Back to who he really is.
Back to the Jewish people.
Miriam rallies the Jewish people to follow Moses.
She even must speak against her own community members
AND family when Aaron gets in the way of progress.
She is passed over, again and again.
No Priesthood, no honors, no acknowledgment.
Miriam never loses faith in what she knows is right.
And this righteous woman of true conviction,
Saved all who wanted it from slavery, in Egypt.
May you know what is right and true in your heart,
May you never waiver when you know it is true,
May you cause so much upheaval in unjust systems
That your own people are afraid of your power and the
Change you create.
May you be the voice that forces others to act,
May you be like our Queens who were enslaved:
They did not just save themselves,
When that would have been enough for most.
They made sure, that once they had their footing
They always turned back and brought ALL
Who would come with them.
The Daily Use Prayer of the Matriarchs of Agency, Choice, and Action
May we all be
Brave and Resourceful like Yocheved,
Cunning and Caring like Hadassah,
Fiercely Unrelenting when you know what is Right like Miriam.
May you know your power and worth,
And may you never set them aside,
Just like our Matriarchs of Agency, Choice and Action.
A Prayer for the Strength of the Enslaved Matriarchs
I pray to you G-d, Ruler of the universe
To make me understand:
My abilities. My resources. My mind.
Give me the strength to choose wisely
When facing challenges outside my control.
To use my mind and heart in balanced care,
And to never forget Others during my own struggles.
May I be like our Queens who were enslaved
Yocheved, Hadassah, and Miriam
Who made the next best choice available.
Who Took on the trial and labor of the needed actions.
Even when all seemed lost and out of their control.