Tekes Ishur V’shleimut: A Ritual of Affirmation and Wholeness after Divorce

This ritual was created by Rabbi Lisa Greene in consultation with Laura Milsk in 1995.

I. Laura [person experiencing the divorce]
About this ritual and how it relates to where I am in my life.

II. Friend/Witness:
A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven;
A time for being born and a time for dying,
A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
A time for slaying and a time for healing,
A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
A time for wailing and a time for dancing;
A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
A time for seeking and a time for losing,
A time for keeping and a time for discarding;
A time for ripping and a time for sewing,
A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating,
A time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8)

III. Lisa [Rabbi/officiant]
Laura, we stand by the water today in this last week of Elul. Water is a source of life, a medium of redemption, a means to purification, a path to rebirth, a metaphor for learning. Elul is a time of intense introspection, heshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul. And so it is appropriate that today we join you, a teacher and student of our heritage, to mark a culmination of your heshbon hanefesh; to give new life to an aged ritual, so that you may cast off the past and affirm your strength and wholeness to travel forward on your life’s journey on a renewed path in the new year and the many new years that follow.

IV. Laura
T’udat Preidah [“certificate of separation.” This certificate was read aloud and torn in the corner.]

V. Friend/Witness:
Birth is a beginning,
And death a destination;
But life is a journey,
A going—a growing
From stage to stage.

From childhood to maturity
And youth to age.
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then perhaps to wisdom.

From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness—
And, often, back again.
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again.

From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding—
From fear to faith.

From defeat to defeat to defeat—
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some place high along the way,
But in having made the journey,
Stage by stage—
A sacred pilgrimage.

Birth is a beginning,
And death a destination;
But life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage
Made stage by stage—
From birth to death
To life everlasting.1

VI. Lisa
On tashlikh

VII. Laura
On Pirke Avot 1.14 [on learning to care for oneself].

VIII. Together
In these days of teshuvah, these days of turning and returning, each of us looks back on the concluding year, casts off transgression and commits ourselves to change in the new year.
         Who is God like you,
         Forgiving inquiry
         And remitting transgression,
         You have not maintained Your wrath forever
         Against the remnant of Your own people,
         Because God loves graciousness!
         God will take us back in love,
         God will cover up our iniquities,
         You will hurl all our sins
         Into the depths of the sea.
         You will keep faith with Jacob,
         Loyalty to Abraham,
         as You promised an oath to our ancestors
         In days gone by (Micah 7:18–20)


IX: Lisa
Birkat Kohanim

X: Together

1. Alvin Fine, “Birth Is A Beginning,” in Rabbi’s Manual (New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1988), pp. 138–40.

“Tekes Ishur V’shleimut: A Ritual of Affirmation and Wholeness after Divorce,” by Lisa S. Greene and Laura Milsk, from CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Summer 1997. Used by permission of Central Conference of American Rabbis. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

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