A Special Seder: A Telling About Menopause

Found In: Menopause

Tags: shehekheyanu

By Shoshana Silberman | Complete Ceremony

Spring and Pesach, a time of rebirth and renewal, seemed a perfect time to gather close friends around to mark my journey into a new stage of life. Not only would this ceremony give me the opportunity to talk about the start of my menopause, but also to learn from the wisdom of others, in this case members of my Rosh Hodesh group, who have been through this transition. Finally, it would enable me/us to help others on their path in the future.

The format: Those present took turns reading the text and leading in reciting blessings. I read the parts indicated by my name.

THE RITUAL

We gather together on this Hol Hamoed Pesach for a "telling" about menopause. May it be a liberating experience for all of us, giving us the freedom and confidence to grow spiritually as we go from strength to strength and move to new stages in our lives.

We fill our glasses for the first cup of wine. Let us drink to good health

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam boreit p'ri hagafen.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'Olam borei p'ri hagafen.

Praised be You, Fountain of Life, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Shoshana:

 

As an act of purfication, the Kohanim of old washed their hands before doing rituals and blessing the people. Tonight I will wash my hands before all present to symbolize my entry into a new stage of life. (Shoshana selects someone to wash her hands as a sign that there will be suppportive frinds to guide her on this journey.)

Karpas is a symbol of spring and rebirth. Tonight we will delight in flowers, a gift the earth gives us to enjoy.

Shoshana:

 

These flowers are a gift I've given myself. They announce that it is important to love myself and "rejoice in my portion." I share this with all of you because you all add so much beauty to my life. Let us recite together the blessing for smelling a delightful fragrance. 

Brukha At Yah Ruakh Ha-olam boret Miney Vesamim.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'Olam borei Miney Vesamim.

Praised are You, Adonai, Source of Delight, who creates all kinds of frangrances.

I had placed several bottles of floral perfumes on the table as a supplement to the flowers. As those present passed around these perfurmes to smell them, they spontaneously splashed themselves with the perfumes. The room smelled delightful.

Shoshana:

With Yahatz, we break the middle matza. Tonight one section will stand for a part of me that is gone. The other section will stand for what lies ahead. These parts will be united at the end of my journey. This broken matza also reminds us that there is so much still in the world that needs a tikkun a change, a healing, a repair. Let's stop for a moment to reflect upon what needs a tikkun. Those who would like to share their wishes for tikkun, please do so. "From your lips to God's ears" may these prayers be answered.

Those present expressed wishes for peace in the Middle East and other troubled spots. A tikkun was wished for parents raising children improperly. FInally, we shared concerns about health care in general and women's health care in particular. We thought, tearfuly, about women in our community who had been stricken by cancer.

FOUR QUESTIONS

Shoshana:

How is menopause different? It's time for the four questions. Let all who have questions about menopause feel free to ask them now.

(One person writes down the questions.)

Shoshana:

We begin to answer. Tonight four wise women will tell about their experiences of menopause. Let us listen and learn. Those asked to do so will begin. Others are welcome to add their experiences.

It was beshert (destiny) that exactly four women who had experienced menopause were able to attend the Seder that evening. Each told her own story and tried to answer some questions raised. One had begun menopause at the age of 43; the others began around 50. Two had taken estrogen replacement therapy; two did not. In common, they viewed menopause as a new beginning. Rather than mourning the past, each woman felt that she had "entered through a door" to a new phase of life. These women were, in fact, more active in their careers and/or with community life than ever before. Their words were reassuring to those present

MAGGID

Shoshana tells her story. Though there were some commonalities, each story was unique. Each was in the image of the Shekhina. Each is holy and part of a Divine Plan.

Shoshanna:

Adonai has shown me many acts of kindness. For each I say, dayeinu!

Adonai

Gave me parents who encouraged me to use my mind.

Dayeinu!

Bound me to a beloved who has been both lover and friend.

Dayeinu!

Blessed me with three children who have brought me much joy.

Dayeinu!

Enabled me though my work to pass on our tradition.

Dayeinu!

Sustained me through the friends who have entered my life.

Dayeinu!

SYMBOLS

Shoshana:

The Passover symbols have special meaning tonight:

The Pesach, the shankbone (or a beet), reminds us of the sacrifices of the flesh that we women make.

May we find joy in giving of ourselves and learn when it is in our best interest to refrain from giving.

Matza nurtured our ancestors as they left Mitzrayim. So tonight let us relate to it as a symbol of nurturing. Matza is also a symbol of liberation. Therefore, it is included in this Seder to symbolize both our role as nurturers (though this is not our exclusive role) and our freeing ourselves from the overburdening responsibility of always nurturing others and not ourselves. A healthy balance between the two is needed.

May we choose that which is healthy and helpful. May our choices sustain us and bring us fulfillment.

Maror reminds us that difficulties are a part of life, and obstacles will always be in our paths.

May we be granted strength to overcome the bitter (as some anonymous wise person said, "turning lemons into lemonade.")

Lemonade is served, with the following blessing.

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam she-hakol ne-heye bidvara.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-Olam she-hakol ne-heye bidvaro.

Praised are You, One Who is Everywhere, for all is according to Your word.

The group brainstorms about other symbols that are appropriate for menopause.

To a woman, we all agree that, for us, a door is the best symbol for menopause. Through our memories, we could return to rooms in the past, but menopause opens doors for us to new adventures and experiences.

We fill our glasses for the second cup of wine. Let us drink to happiness and fulfillment.

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam boreit p'ri hagafen.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'Olam borei p'ri hagafen.

Praised are You, Holy One of Blessing, who creates the fruit of the vine.

As we have shared food for thought, let us now also share some Pesach foods.

Recite the Motzi blessing for matza

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam hamotzi-a lechem min ha-aretz.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-Olam hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.

Praised are You, Source of Life, who brings fourth bread from the earth.

Dip the maror into haroset to proclaim that bitterness can be sweetened by hope and love.

Recite the blessing for maror.

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam asher kid'shatnu b'mitzvoteha v'tzivatnu al achilat maror.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-Olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al achilat maror.

Praised are You, Infinite One, who commands us to experience the bitter and the sweet.

Time to nosh! Provided are Passover cakes and cookies, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, candy and marshmallows.

Shoshana:

The Afikomen concludes our nosh. After years of giving Afikomen prizes, it's my turn to be rewarded. Let my reward be your gifts of sone as we begin our Hallel section. First join me in benching (saying the blessing after meals).

BIRKAT HAMAZON

We fill our glasses for the third cup of wine. Let us drink to a lifetime of creativity.

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam boreit p'ri hagafen.

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam borei p'ri hagafen.

Praised are you, Adonai, Creator of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Now we welcome the spirit of Miriam the prophetess to our Seder. May her courage, her joy and her wisdom be an inspiration to us all.

"All Sing"

Song of Miriam Hanivee'a

Miriam Hanivee'a
Shir halleluya b'leeba
Miriam Hanivee'a.

Beem'haira b'yamainu
Tavo elaynu
Likrat halom ladror
Im shlaymut v'shalom

Translation:

Miriam the prophet
Song of praise in her heart
Miriam the prophet

Quickly and in our day
May she come to us
WIth a dream of freedom
WIth wholeness and peace.
Hallelujah!

Songs about women's lives are sung. Each guest leads a song she has selected and copied for the Seder. Songsheets are put together into a booklet to remember the occasion.

The evening flew by. Among the songs sung were "As We Bless" by Faith Rogow, "Woman" by John Lennon, and "Middle Age Boogie" by the group.

CONCLUSION

Shoshana:

In Pirke Avot 5:24, it is written that at 50 one is ready to give counsel. May I, at this stage in my life, be open to those who seek advice and available to those who seek a mentor or friend.

We fill our glasses for the fourth cup of wine. Let us drink to friendship and love.

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam boreit p'ri hagafen.

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam borei p'ri hagafen.

Praised are You, Adonai, Nurturer of Us All, who creates the fruit of the vine.

To conclude the Seder, each guest shares a blessing, advice or gift for Shoshana which they think would be appropriate or helpful at this time in her life.

What was shared was both funny and serious, comforting and challenging. It included a bag of exotic fruits, a poem called "Bird Song" by Betsy Rosenberg, an essay entitled "The Space Crone" by Ursula K. Le Guin, several touching letters, a ceramic pin that said "Oy Vey!", a humorous menopause check list, and several blessings.

One blessing stated: "When society tells us that the time of bearing fruit or of creating for one's work is past, our hearts and minds are continually full of new creations. With faith and confidence in your own posibilities, you will continue to create anew."

Shoshana:

This Seder was a holy moment. I will carry its memory across deserts and seas, surrounded by friends, or alone on a mountaintop. I thank you all for sharing this occasion with me and ask that you join me in reciting the Shehiyanu prayer.

"All"

B'rucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha-Olam shehecheyatnu v'kiy'matnu v'higiatnu laz'man hazeh.

Baruch Atah Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-Olam shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higianu laz'man hazeh

Praised are You, Sustainer of Humanity, for enabllng us to reach this time together.

Suggestion: To meet every Hol Hamo'ed Pesach to mark the transitions and journey that have occurred during the year a new tradition for our Rosh Hodesh group.

It was unanimously agreed that we meet again next year to share our transitions and passages, the expected and the unexpected.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher, CAJE. This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter issue of Jewish Education News, published by the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish EDucation. The focus of this issue was Jewish Journey, New Rituals, Information about this publication or any of CAJE's other publications, can be obtained by contacting CAJE by phone at 212-268-4210 or by e-mail at publications@caje.org. Additional articles on this theme can be found on the CAJE website at www.caje.org. Publications can also be ordered on-line