This is a ritual I created for a friend of mine. She had spent 2/3 of her life working for a major national Jewish women's organization, and the same amount of time working as a professional in a particular field. At the end of this period of time, she learned that she would not become president of the national organization, as she had expected, and her business had basically failed due to the economy. After some significant mourning over both of those events, she found a wonderful job in our local Jewish community, combining her skills and talents from both her former lives. This ritual was a marker – to say farewell formally to her previous occupation and avocation, and to welcome the new phase of her life.
This version of the ritual has been generalized – I refer to a focus woman (FW) rather than naming my friend, and make suggestions for what she might read, rather than include the specifics of this ritual as first performed.
After the completion of the ritual, all the women assembled sat around our friend's home and ate lunch and talked together. Although we had not all known each other before, we were all friends by the time we left.
כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ גֶּשֶׁר צַר מְאֹד וְהָעִקָּר לֹא לְפַחֵד כְּלָל
Kol ha-olam kulo gesher tzar m'od, V'ha-ikar lo l'fakhed klal.
All of the world is just a narrow bridge,
The only thing is do not be afraid.
|—Nachman of Bratslav|
I have called you together today to honor the community of women who have nurtured me, cried with me, thought out loud with me, finally who will celebrate with me... the women who have collectively brought me to this moment. Although many of you are either not Jewish or not at all observant, each of you, in your own unique way, has helped me through my recent transition in a way that respected my commitment to Judaism, to Jewish values, and to the Jewish community. Today, we mark a new beginning – a new era of my life begins. Before being able to be truly open to all of its wonderment, I must pay tribute to what has come before.
To everything there is a season,
And a time for every purpose under heaven.
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to break down, and a time to build up.
We will now perform a ceremony modeled on Havdalah. Havdalah means separation; it is used to separate the Sabbath or holidays from the regular days of the week. Here we will share grape juice or wine in celebration, and bless the One who brings a time to cast away the past, and who distinguishes season from season, one life-phase from another.
During the ceremony, as a way to symbolize my casting away of the old to make room for the new, I __________________ will do some activity symbolic of casting away the past.
When we did this part, we sang these blessings to the Debbie Friedman Havdalah melody.
נְבָרֵךְ יָהּ שְׁכִינָה רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵאת פְּרִי הַגֶּפֶן
We bless Yah, Divine Presence, Life's Breath of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
נְבָרֵךְ יָהּ שְׁכִינָה רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם גּוֹרֶמֶת עֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ
N'varekh Yah Shekhinah, ruakh ha-olam, goremet et l'hashlikh.
We bless Yah, Divine Presence, Life's Breath of the universe, Who brings about a time to cast away .
נְבָרֵךְ יָהּ שְׁכִינָה רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם הַמַּבְדִּילָה בֵּין תְּקוּפָה לִתְקוּפָה
N'varekh Yah Shekhinah, ruakh ha-olam,ha-mavdilah beyn t'kufah litkufah.
We bless Yah, Divine Presence, Life's Breath of the universe,Who distinguishes season from season.
We have marked an ending and a new beginning. Each of us will write her wishes for you into this book, as you now begin to write the new pages of your life. (We had a little book with blank pages, into which each of the women present wrote her wishes.)
Every day Creation is renewed: wake up and see
In the spreading light of dawn
The world and all it contains
Coming into being new and fresh,
Filled with divine goodness and love.
Every day, Creation is renewed: wake up and see.
|—words by Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg, taken from Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim|