Bat Shekhinah

I created the Bat Shekhinah ritual when a friend from B’nai Or of Boston asked me to create a ritual for her daughter about to become a Bat Mitzvah. She wanted something more intimate where women could gather to bless her daughter. This ritual has now been performed in many communities in the Boston area.

The mom and her daughter chose ten women from family, friends, and Jewish community. These ten women had qualities similar to the sefirot, the ten emanations that are attributes of the Divine. The sefirotic qualities we looked for were: groundedness, connection to family, connection to nature, creativity, love/beauty, clear judgment, loving-kindness, understanding, wisdom, and spirituality. Whew!

They chose women they loved and respected, who they felt were close enough to one of the sefirotic qualities. Each woman blessed the Bat Mitzvah/Bat Shekhinah with this quality in her own way. The first time we did this ritual, each woman was in a separate room. The Bat Shekhinah carried a decorated basket and visited each of the women, one by one. They gave her a blessing or told a story. Sometimes there was a little gift. Any items like this went into her decorated basket. While she did this, the women who were not with her tied the tzitzit on her new tallit, while singing, talking, and sending their blessings into the prayer shawl. A variation is to sit in a circle and, one by one, each woman blesses the Bat Shekhinah, offering something of herself to her.

After these blessings, the women and some of the Bat Shekhinah’s invited friends, if she chooses, sing and braid her hair with ribbons and flowers. If she desires, her hands and feet are washed and oiled. We pamper her!

Finally, Mom and Bat Shekhinah stand in the center of the circle of women, back to back. I speak to them about the years they have had together. The daughter is and will always be a bat, a daughter, to her mother. Now, in addition, she will be Bat Shekhinah, daughter of the Indwelling Presence, the Feminine Divine source. She will feel both herself as her mother’s daughter and Bat Shekhinah as she steps forward to become Bat Mitzvah. I suggest they notice the feeling of each other’s backs flush against their own. After a moment, I ask the Bat Shekhinah to take a step forward. I ask each of them to feel and remember the feeling of each other’s backs, with this new space between them. Then one more step. I ask them to turn to face each other and see each other: the girls/women they have been, the women they are, and the women, in this ritual, that they are becoming. We laugh, we cry! They join the circle of women and we sing “Lechi Lach,” by Debbie Friedman, or another beloved blessing song.

We make Kiddush and eat together! Sometimes, the women from this ceremony are invited up for one of the aliyot at the Bat Mitzvah to mark their involvement in her life.

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