Clergy Resource Center
Every time someone publicly addresses domestic abuse, whether it's speaking from a pulpit or writing about it in a newsletter, a victim or one of their loved ones comes forward to seek help. Clergy and community leaders play a critical role in lighting the way for individuals experiencing abuse to find the help they need to create a safer life for themselves and their families.
Domestic abuse occurs in Jewish families at about the same rate as in the general population – 15-25% – and the abuse takes place among all branches of Judaism and at all socio-economic levels.1 Studies show that abuse occurs in every denomination of Judaism in equal percentages, and we see abuse in all communities including the unaffiliated. Abuse takes place at all socio-economic levels.
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. I think most Jewish people think it can never happen to them or does not happen within the Jewish community. I felt this way too before I experienced it, and I never could have imagined that I would be in this situation. But I have learned otherwise.- JCADA Client, 2006
Cultural Issues Facing Jewish Victims
Parashah Pieces: Divrei Torah [Sermons] Samples and Inspiration
- It is clear from the very beginning that within every human being is a spark of divinity. Each person is of inestimable worth. An abuser is determined to destroy the “tzelem" in his victim The victim must be helped to realize that their spark of the divine can never be destroyed.
- Why does the verse add the words “before God”. These words appear superfluous. The following comment is offered in the Etz Chayim commentary, “God deemed their behavior corrupt, but they themselves saw nothing wrong with it.” In cases of domestic abuse, it is common for the abuser to consider his behavior as perfectly normal and fitting. Our tradition holds us to God’s standards and not human standards.
- The Hebrew expression lech lecha because of the doubling of the word lech and the secondlecha, literally meaning “go to yourself,” is fertile ground for much interpretive comment. One cansee this doubling as hint that Abram’s journey is both external and internal (lech the physicalgoing out and lecha, the journey within). Abram must both physically leave Ur and spiritually leave Ur in order to break from idolatry and worship the one God.Similarly, the victim of abuse must journey without and within. Very often, they must physicallyleave the house they shared with the abuser and they must also leave the emotional and spiritualprison that the abuser has constructed for them. JCADA reminds the Jewish community that wemust leave behind our perception that domestic abuse doesn’t happen in “our” community.
- This verse teaches us that the omniscient God must “go down” to witness the evidence of crueltyand abuse of Sodom and Gemorrah. So too must we, as a community and as individuals, descendfrom our “high perch” and bear witness to the cruelty and abuse that happens in far too manyJewish homes. Abraham’s mission is to be God’s partner and “to keep the way of the Lord by doingwhat is just and right. We are Abraham’s descendants.
- Rabbi Harold Kushner offers the following comment on this verse in the Etz Chayim Commentary,“Isaac comes to love Rebecca after he marries her. Their love is the result, not the prerequisite oftheir relationship.”Certainly, “first comes marriage, then comes love” is not the norm in our modern society. And yet,we should not be quick to dismiss the wisdom in these words. Would it be that all relationships,marital and pre-marital, result in increasing the love between the partners. JCADA's mission includesthe important task of helping our teens identify the difference between a healthy and unhealthyrelationship to help break the cycle of abuse for future generations.
- Jacob presents himself as his brother. He purposely deceives his father in order to receive Esau’sblessing. This deception leads to much pain and suffering.Deception plays a large role in the family dynamics of the household in which there is abuse. Often,to the outsider, the family appears perfectly normal. In fact, one might say that household in whichthere is abuse is an inverted Jacob. The hands (outer) are the hands of Jacob, smooth and refined,but the voice (inner) is the voice of Esau, rough and aggressive.
- Jacob fled his angry brother. He was frightened. He was alone. And yet he comes to the realization,with his dream of the ladder, that God has not deserted him. God was present is this “any place” thathe laid down his head.The most important thing that we can offer the victim of domestic abuse is our presence.Demeaned and frightened, they feel completely alone. JCADA is like Jacob’s ladder - both a welcomingand supportive presence and a way up and out, one wrung at a time.
- Just prior to this verse, the Torah tells us that Jacob was injured in his fight with the angel, andnow walks with a limp. How is it that Jacob arrives in the city of Shechem shalem (literally “whole”)though he walks with a limp? The great Hasidic sage Menahem Mendel of Kotzk taught, “There isnothing so whole as a broken heart.” Perhaps, Jacob’s physical injury strengthened his soul.Perhaps the arrogant, conniving Jacob was now humbled and finally able to fill his role as the fatherof a great people.A “broken heart” - emotional and physical trauma leaves a terrible mark on the psyche of the victimof the abuse. And yet, this does not mean that the victim is weak and broken. Survivingdomestic abuse with the help of JCADA can leave a person with a reservoir of strength andresilience that can provide inspiration for all.
- Joseph’s young life was filled with ups and downs, both literal and figurative. He was lifted up by his fatherand cast into a pit by his brothers. He rose up to be the head of Potiphar’s household and he was thrown into a prison framed by Potiphar’s wife. Through it all, the Torah tells us, God was withJoseph. Would that we had such assurance of God’s presence, through our trials and tribulations;for to be alone is the most terrible blow of all.There are those among us, Jewish women and men, whose lives have knownterrible hardship akin to Joseph's. Like Joseph, they have been abandoned and brutalized bythose who should hold them most dear. Jewish victims of domestic abuse are often alone in theirsuffering. Isolated by their abusers and by a community that does not want to hear their plight, likeJoseph, they too need God’s presence. Thank God, there is JCADA, an organization that providesreal support, a helping hand to lift them up and return them to the dignity they deserve. Acting aspartners with God, JCADA reminds the Josephs in our midst that they too are not alone.
- What did it mean for Joseph to forget the hardship of his parental home? Clearly, Joseph was stillvery much aware of his past and his pain. He named his son Menashe not because he has wipedclean his memory. He named his son Menashe because he is no longer imprisoned by the terriblememories of betrayal and abandonment. He has charted a new path and new life in spite of hishardships. Joseph’s rebirth took courage more than forgetfulness.So too it is with victims of domestic abuse. Women and men who leave abusive relationships and struggle torecapture their lives are not able to wipe clean their memories. They are able, with the help ofJCADA, to courageously go on with their lives in spite of their painful memories. Just as Joseph is arole model for us; so too are these survivors.
- Joseph’s understanding of God’s hand in his arduous life journey and his brothers’ treacherynegated the possibility of victimhood. Neither he nor his brothers were victims to fate but recipientsof God’s blessings. Joseph saw God as having a greater plan for us despite our troubles and travails.The work of JCADA is to help those suffering domestic abuse see that victimhood does not definethem. They are supported and empowered to seek safety and move on with their lives as best asthey can. This battle to see a hopeful future requires great courage.
- Jacob referred to God as a shepherd and a rock. These images are used to convey the double messagethat God is both a guide to His flock and steadfast like a rock. We human beings need both aspectsof God.Certainly, if ordinary men and women need guidance and steadfastness, then the most vulnerableamong us need guidance and steadfastness as well. Jewish victims of domestic abuse are the mostvulnerable among us. In our community, JCADA is a steadfast guide to a population desperately inneed of safety and support.
- This incident follows Moses interceding on behalf of the Hebrew slave who was beaten by theEgyptian taskmaster. Why does the Torah record this second instance of Moses standing up for thewronged? Isn’t striking down the Egyptian sufficient evidence of Moses’ courage and commitmentto justice. Perhaps the second instance is brought to teach us that pursuing justice is not only calledfor when your people are being abused by an outsider but also when one member of yourcommunity is being abused by another member of your community. Injustice within “the family” isstill injustice.JCADA helps us to realize, in our own community, the principle enshrined in the parasha. Injusticewithin “the family” is still injustice. We cannot stand idly by when far too many Jewish women inour community are abused by their spouses and other relatives. Domestic abuse is “our business”.
- Free you, deliver you, redeem you, take you bring you. This passage reminds us thatredemption is not achieved in one fell swoop but is a several stage process involving escape fromboth physical and spiritual bondage. So too is leaving an abusive relationship a several stepprocess. JCADA reminds us that there must be safety planning, the decision to leave, processing ofgrief, and the battle to establish a new life. The victim must be helped every step of the way.
- The mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus on Pesach is repeated three times in this parasha(and one other time in Devarim). Why must this mitzvah be repeated so many times? Perhaps, it’sbecause our story of redemption is a painful one to tell. We must, as the Mishna instructs us, beginwith shame. Slavery was a dark chapter in our national story. No one relishes retelling and relivingour degradation. And yet, the greater the gloom of degradation, the greater the light of redemption.JCADA’s outreach efforts are inspired by this mitzvah of the seder night. Telling the story ofdomestic abuse in the Jewish community is not easy. It is a dark and painful tale. And yet, JCADAmust begin with this shame in order to explain the redemptive role it plays in the lives of thevictims of domestic abuse. The work of JCADA is not depressing. The work of JCADA is upliftingand inspiring.
- According to a Midrash, Nachshon ben Aminadav, head of the tribe of Judah, was the first to step into the sea, even before it parted. His demonstration of faith brought on the miracle of the splittingof the sea. Taking the first step forward into the dark sea of the unknown opens the path toredemption. For the victims of domestic abuse, taking the first step forward, contacting JCADA orreaching out to your rabbi, opens the path to personal redemption as well.
- Rabbinic tradition understood this verse to mean that the aggressor must compensate the victimfor the monetary value of his limb that was injured. In addition, the Talmud mandates that thevictim be compensated for medical expenses, pain endured, shame experienced and wages lost.We can see in this well-worked out system of justice a deep understanding of the suffering of thevictim of violence. Certainly, we, as heirs to this great tradition of justice, must bring a deepunderstanding of the victims of domestic abuse.
- Our Sages saw in this verse about the ark of the covenant an admonition to the talmid chacham, thelearned Jew. As he is “gold/pious” on the outside (publicly), he must also be “gold/pious” on theinside (privately). Clearly, the Sages understood the propensity for religious Jews to deceive thosearound them with the outward trappings of piety.All too often, in cases of domestic abuse, the Jewish abuser will present himself to the largercommunity as a pillar of virtue. Many will be fooled and ignore the pleas of the victim when shetells what happens behind closed doors.
- This verse is the source for the practice of hanging a “Eternal Light” above the ark in the synagogue.The term “Eternal Light” or Ner Tamid in Hebrew is a bit misleading. It suggests that the lightstays lit eternally on its own. Instead, the verse in our parasha makes clear that the Hebrew wordtamid (continually, eternally) is describing the actions of the Israelites and not the light itself.This point of Hebrew grammar offers a valuable spiritual lesson. In shining a light on the darkplaces of the world, we must be ever vigilant. Once the light fades, the doers of evil will feel free totake advantage of the innocent. JCADA is the constant light in our community on the scourge ofdomestic abuse. It must never be diminished.
- This Hebrew word, which means “each shall give/pay” is a palindrome, spelled thesame way from right to left as it is from left to right. This reminds us that giving is also receiving.We should never see ourselves, when we give, as being on a higher plane, the stronger bestowingmercy on the weaker. Rather, we should always be open to receiving back from the one we arehelping. Victims of domestic abuse have a great deal of strength and wisdom to share.
- A Chasidic insight: “Why does the verse add, 'throughout your settlements' to the mitzvah-to teachus that we should not add anger, hurtful speech, and gossip to our community on Shabbat?" Thisimportant warning against abuses of the tongue is clearly regarding hurtful and hateful speech. Itshould not be used as an excuse for refraining to believe someone when they report abuses of thebody and the soul. Sadly, all too often, victims of domestic abuse will share with someone else, evenclergy, their painful plight and the confidant will do nothing for fear of engaging in gossip. A fire isburning inside a home and extinguishing that fire takes precedence.
- Chaim Potok writes in the Etz Hayim Commentary, “The book of Exodus which opened with anarrative of misery and oppression, closes on a note of confidence and hope." The subject ofdomestic abuse, which is a dark secret our community keeps, can be a source of light and hope.JCADA is writing a new book of Exodus for our day.
- The Hebrew word for offering or sacrifice is korban which comes from the root kuf, resh, bet - meaning to draw close. Victims of domestic abuse have been sacrificed on the altar of “not in ourcommunity” for far too long. We must see tackling this issue as our korban; our attempt atbringing ourselves closer to God; closer to our purpose on the planet - “to praise, to labor, and tolove.”
- The todah/thanksgiving offering was given after a person had been saved from a life-threateningexperience. In a sense, the person was given a second chance at life. Echoes of this biblical sacrificeare found in the practice of saying birkat ha-gomel before the Torah, the blessing of praise of Godoffered by a person who completed a dangerous journey, or recovered from an illness.No doubt, everyone has experienced, to one degree or another, the great relief of having survived adangerous encounter; of moving from vulnerability to security. We can then only begin to imaginewhat the victim of domestic abuse must feel; being unsafe and completely vulnerable in their ownhome. And we can then only begin to understand the relief that JCADA provides to these womenand men when they support them in moving from danger to security.
- Jewish tradition ascribes a particular spiritual/moral deficiency to the pig. The reason is the pig has“kosher feet” but does not chew its cud; meaning it has cloven hoofs and thus appears kosher on theoutside while hiding its treif nature from the world. My mother told a story about a relative whowas like the pig. He used to bring his own pots and pans to my Bubby’s home, because he didn’ttrust my grandmother’s kashrut, yet it was plain enough that he beat his wife. JCADA deals with fartoo many “religious” Jewish men whose “piety” is a mere subterfuge.
- According to Rabbi Harold Kushner in the Etz Hayim Commentary, “One commentator reads this as'when the priest sees him' (Meshekh Hokhmah). The priest is to examine the whole person, notonly the diseased limb. He is to see what his whole and healthy about the person, not only what isafflicted." JCADA helps us look at the total person. A victim of domestic abuse who seeks help is much morethan just a victim. They are a full person with incredible strength who has something to teach all of us.
- The Rabbis see this as a foreshadowing of the destruction of the Temple; a “house” that will be torndown by the evil of its inhabitants. The evil of domestic abuse is a negah/plague not only on andin the home where it occurs, but also on and in the communal house as well. How often we hearabout a crime against a stranger being committed by an abusive spouse who, eventually, lashes outagainst others as well. The bayit m’nugah, the afflicted house, is a moral warning to all.
- The repetition of “I am the Lord/ Anee Hashem” in these two verses reminds us that God is a part of our lives even in the most “intimate” of settings. Abuse and indecency in a family is not a private matter but an offense against God. Additionally the phrase “…of which man shall live/v’chai bachem” has been understood by the Rabbis as the basis for arguing that martyrdom is prohibited except in three cases; murder, incest, and adultery. One should die rather than compromise one’s sexual propriety. How much the more so, one should not commit an act of sexual abuse.
- What a powerful image. Taking advantage, abusing others, is not merely a personal offense, the collective is defiled as well.
- Martin Buber understood this commandment (love your neighbor as yourself) as being connected to the preceding one, “you shall not take vengeance.” Because all human beings are part of the same body, to hurt another person in an effort to get even is to hurt part of oneself. He compares it to a person whose hand slips while holding a knife and he stabs himself. Should he stab the offending hand that slipped, to get even with it for hurting him?... So it is, when we, in anger hurt another person, not understanding we are all connected. ( Etz Chayim Torah and Commentary p. 697)
- Commonly understood as fasting, v’ee’nee’tem et nafshotaychem, more precisely, means practicing self-denial or better; self-control. To be human, fully human, is to have control over one’s baser impulses. Rather than seeing v’ee’nee’tem et nafshotaychem as to punish oneself (fasting as self-flagellation), we can understood the mitzvah as an effort to draw closer to God by leaving the animal part of ourselves aside. Godliness is about controlling ourselves. The animalistic side of ourselves seeks to control others.
- Harold Kushner in the Etz Chayim Torah and Commentary offers the following insight into this verse from P'nai Yehoshua. “The jubilee year brings freedom not only to slaves but also to the slave owners, freeing them from the dehumanizing situation of having such power over other human beings.” An abuser asserts dominance over his/her victim attempting to degrade and demean the other person. Our verse reminds us that the abuser is also demeaning and degrading him/herself.
- Far from seeing “your home as your castle”, Jewish tradition sees one’s home as place to practice holiness in word as in deed. According to Menahem Mendl of Kotzk, “True holiness sanctifies the seemingly mundane activities of running a household. One who behaves in a elevated manner in one’s own house is truly a holy person.”
- Harold Kushner in the Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary offers the following insight into thisverse. “The verse is interpreted homiletically to teach that one should be the same person at homeas away from home, in private as in public.” Clearly, our tradition understood that there is greattemptation to act irresponsibly when not subject to the scrutiny of others. Being a person ofintegrity requires great self-disciple and yirat shamayim, a real sense that God is watching.
- The prophet Hosea sees the relationship of Israel and God as the relationship between husband andwife. The repentant wife, Israel, will be accepted back by God, the forgiving husband. The restoredrelationship will be one of partners (eesh v’eesha) and not of master (ba’al) and servant.
- According to the Ktav Sofer (Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, 19th Hungarian rabbi), peace bebegins in the home, then extends to the community, and finally to the all the world. Here again, wesee the Jewish view that decency radiates from inside out and not the outside in.
- The light of the menorah pushes back the darkness of the world. The Chanukah menorah shedslight when the world experiences its greatest darkness during the winter solstice. We, as Jews, bearresponsibility to shed light on the dark places in our community where injustice and abuse abide.
- Spreading evil reports about the Land of Israel led to an entire generation’s demise in the desert.Gossip and lashon ha’rah is rightly condemned in our tradition. And yet, our hesitancy to practiceevil speech should not prevent us from following up on suspicions that someone is being abused.Passing on one’s suspicions of mistreatment to a rabbi is the right thing to do!
- According to Rashi, “From here we derive that one should not persist in dispute because Mosessought them out to conciliate them with peaceful words (b’divrei shalom).” Humility and puttingaside ego is an important lesson that we learn from Moses, our Teacher. Perhaps, this played aneven more critical role in the life of Moses who was prone to act out on his anger.
- Slavery was a trauma that left its mark on the people. Long after slavery ended, the traumacontinued. They were more comfortable being the slaves than free people. The victims of abusealso carry with them psychic scars. Leaving an abusive relationship means more than leaving themarital home. Freedom requires a long and brave fight, both internal and external.
- According to the Talmud (Bava Batra 60a), Balaam said these words when he saw that the tents ofthe Israelites were arranged so that their entrances made it impossible for a family to see inside thetents of others, showing respect for privacy. And yet, Balaam was a pagan prophet whose donkeysaw more clearly than he. Perhaps we need to look more carefully than Balaam. What appears onthe outside to family purity and modesty might on the inside be filled with violence and abuse.
- Pinchas, the zealous defender of the faith of Israel and the people of Israel, is given a covenant ofpeace. Was this a reward for his zealous act or was this an antidote for his destructive impulse?Commentators offer various interpretations. What we can say for sure is that peace is possibleeven after psychic trauma like abuse. Perhaps that peace is incomplete (hinted at by the brokenletter vav in the word “shalom” as it’s written in the Torah scroll), but it is peace nonetheless.
- The view that wives are subservient to their husbands is certainly present and undeniable in Jewishtradition. Even though the Rabbis of the Talmud narrowed the applicability of this law, the manwas still dominant in many aspects of halacha. Some men today continue to use this worldview asjustification for spousal abuse. Sometimes we do this type thing and we argue that Jewish traditiongives us a justification.
- If Biblical tradition insists on a city of refuge for a inadvertent killer, how much the more so shouldwe provide places of refuge for the victims of domestic abuse. JCADA helps such victims get thelegal, emotional, and physical refuge that they need.
- “Words” in Hebrew are devarim. Devarim also means “things”. This double meaning of devarim reminds us that words have substance. Abusive words do damage that is lasting. Domestic abuse often is verbal abuse. Words that demean, words that debase are weapons in the arsenal of the abuser.
- This commandment is worded differently in Hebrew than the ninth commandment is worded in Exodus (Ex. 20:13). Literally, this commandment means, “You shall not be a worthless witness against your neighbor.”Victims of domestic abuse are found in every congregation in our community. We must be worthy witnesses to their plight. Domestic abuse often happens behind closed doors but the tell tale signs are evident to those who know what to look for. We need to be those people who know what to look for.
- “Shema” means not only to hear but to “listen” and to “understand” and to “do”. Our Jewish community needs to listen when a victim of abuse speaks. All too often, we close our ears. We must listen deeply and patiently and providing them the support they need.
- The Jewish home is to be a place of sanctity. For our ancient ancestors, the outside world was filled with debased practices. Bringing an idol into the home meant the moral and spiritual corruption of that home. In our day, idols may not be gold and silver depictions of Baal and Astarte but the pursuit of the material. Power and envy must be barred from our homes lest we tear apart the very relationships we hold most dear.
- Financial control is often a devastating tool in the arsenal of the abuser. He manipulates the victim with constant threats that he will leave her destitute. The wealth is his and he can use it as a bludgeon.
- According to the Talmud, one who ignores the needy is like an idolater (BT Ket. 68a). Also, it is forbidden to insult the poor or accuse them of being undeserving. How easy it is for us to ignore the Jewish victims of domestic abuse. We say to ourselves, “this doesn’t happen in a Jewish household.”All too often, we look the other way because Jewish domestic abuse makes us uncomfortable.
- How many times have we watched the news and seen that a terrible murder (or murders) has resulted from a “domestic situation”? Domestic abuse often leads to the shedding of innocent blood. Our ancient ancestors felt compelled to perform an expiation ritual when a body was discovered and the assailant was unknown. “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done.” (Deut. 21:7) Can we truly say that “our eyes did not see it done”?
- This parasha mandates repeatedly that constraints be placed on the powerful in their treatment of the vulnerable, particularly in domestic situations. Whether it is the captive woman taken in war or the unloved wife or the wife accused of not being a virgin, the more powerful male is constrained by the laws of the Torah to treat her justly and within a legal process. Though the particular procedures trouble our 21 st century sensibilities, the general aim of the Torah is constrain the ability of the husband to abuse his spouse.
- Why does the Torah set this out as particularly horrible curse? Doesn’t the blind man grope about in the dark as he gropes about in the light? Yes, but in the light others can give him help whereas in the dark, he is completely alone. (BT Meg. 24b). When we fail to shine a light on domestic abuse, we curse the victims with darkness. She gropes around with no one to help her. She has been victimized twice.
- All too often, we humans surrender our God given ability and right to choose. In situations ofdomestic abuse, the abuser and the abused must know they have choice. The abuser can choose tostop his/her abusive behavior and the abused can make the difficult choice to seek help andseparate herself from the abuser.
- Reaching out for help requires strength and courage. Just as Moses reassures the people Israel thatthey will not be alone, God will be with them, so we must reassure the victims of domestic abusethey are not alone. Not only will God be with them, but we will be with them as well. Isolation is anally of the abuser!
- Even though Moses will not enter the land of Israel personally, he will see it from a distance. He willglimpse what is possible for his children. Viewing the “Promised Land” seeing what is possible notonly for her/himself but for his/her children is a necessary step in the journey of the abused tosafety and a better life. The abused often can only see more wilderness ahead. With the help ofJCADA, the possibility of a brighter future is revealed.
- The parting words we offer as we finish the Torah remind us that endings are always difficult. Weare creatures of habit. Often we would prefer to remain in a situation, even a bad situation, ratherthan starting anew. Some wonder why a victim of abuse remains with an abuser. Though thereasons are complex, one reason is endings, even necessary endings, require great strength.
Prayers for Healing
- ברוך אתה יי אלוהינו מלך העולם, הגומל לחיבים טובות, שגמלני כל טוב
- Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, ha’gomel l’chayavim tovot, sh’g’malni tov.
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who bestows kindness on those who are committed, and who has granted to me all kindness.
- שגמלך טוב הוא יגמלך סלה
- Shegemalcha tov, hu yigmalcha, selah.
- May the One who has granted you all kindness always grant kindness to you, selah.
- May the one who blessed our ancestors, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, and Abraham, Isaac,and Jacob, provide protection, compassion, care, and healing for all those who have known violence and abuse within their families. May those who have been harmed find pathways to understanding and wholeness, and those who have caused harm find their way to repentance and peace. May our community be a source of support for those who have suffered in silence or shame. May those whose homes have become places of danger find their way to a sukkat shalom, a shelter of safety. Amen.
Intention - Kavanah (to be read preparing for immersion)
- As I immerse myself in mayim hayyim, living waters,I begin a time of rebirth and renewal. From Miriam’s well I draw refreshing waters of strength and comfort, waters to cleanse and purify, to sustain and bless.Holy One of Blessing, welcome me as I enter Your Life-flow.Surround me, embrace me, bathe me in your sweet waters, in your healing light.
First Immersion (Slowly descend the steps into the mikveh waters and immerse completely so that every part of your body is covered in the warm water of the mikveh.When you emerge, recite the following:)
- Baruch atah, AdonaiEloheinu, Melech ha’olamAsher kidshanu bi-t’vilahB’mayyim hayyim.
- Blessed are You, God, Majestic Spirit of the UniverseWho makes us holy by embracing us in living waters.
- Carry me to new shores, new beginnings.Grant me the gift of safety – safety of body and safety of spirit.Grant me a r’fuah sh’lemah, a complete healing and renewal.
- Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha’olamShehechayanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu la’zman hazeh.
- Praised are you, God of all Creation, Who has kept me alive, sustained me and, through one miracle after another, has brought me to this time.
- May I remember this moment of being held in safety, surrounded by living waters.May I be released from the pain of the past as I enter this new phase of my journey.May I know my own strength and trust my ability to care for myself.Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazayk.From strength to strength, I am strengthened.
- Holy One of life and love, Bless us with the strength to greet each day with energy and purpose as we work to eradicate sexual and domestic violence and terror. Grant us the wisdom to recognize stumbling blocks for what they are and the creativity to maneuver our way around them. Open the eyes of those who see violence against women and children as inevitable outcomes of the world in which we live; let them hear the cries of those in need; widen their hearts to hold the many faces of those in this world and beyond who demand our unending support; call forth compassionate words of change from their mouths and commitment to acts of justice and transformation from their hands. Draw us together as a community of diverse narrative, culture and history, offering support through our presence and intention. Remind us that we are not alone . . . we are not alone. Help us to engage in intentional practice of thanksgiving; let us be grateful for the accomplishments of those who came before us, the progress we have made and the prospect of a brighter tomorrow. When we are tired and veer towards complacency, stretch out Your hand and re-ignite the passionate fire for divine humanity that lives within. You, who rolls away the darkness into the light, send us forth as messengers, truth tellers and witnesses to illuminate what is and demand with fortitude a world of safety and respect for women and children in body, mind and spirit. Just as the dove found an olive branch in the receding flood waters, so too may we find signs of peace and the potential for hope and renewal. May that time come speedily and in our day. And let us say, Amen.
Prayers, Sermons & Text Studies, Jewish Women International
Holiday Guides: Women, Relationships & Jewish Texts, Jewish Women International
1Abramson, Sarah & Cora Peterson. (2011). “You know a Jewish woman sufferingfrom domestic abuse”: Domestic Abuse and the British Jewish Community. JewishWomen’s Aid.; Giller, B. & Goldsmith, E. (1980). All in the Family: A Study of Intra-familial Violence in the Los Angeles Jewish Community [unpublished master’sthesis]. Los Angeles, CA: Hebrew Union College and University of SouthernCalifornia.