Transition Ritual for Rabbah Rona Matlow

December 15, 2015 – 3 Tevet 5776
Rabbi I:
הַיָּשָׁן יִתְחַדֵּשׁ וְהֶחָדָשׁ יִתְקַדֵּשׁ
Transliteration: Hayashan yitkhadesh v’heykhadash yitkadesh.
The old will be made new, and the new will be made holy.
(Rav Abraham Isaac Kook)
In the creation story, Bereshit 1:27 states that when God created humanity,
זָכַר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אוֹתָם
Transliteration: Zakhar u’n’keyvah bara otam.
Male AND female, God created them
Rabbi II:
Midrash Bereshit Rabbah notes (5:1) that this meant that Adam haRishon was in fact Androgynous. The modern term for this is Intersex. The traditional understanding of this verse is that God created humanity in a binary state, male OR female. By understanding that we are created male AND female, we recognize that God gave every human characteristics of all gender, and that our gender identity is somewhere on a spectrum, not a binary state.
Rabbi III:
Each morning, and every time we use the bathroom, we praise God’s wisdom in creation of humanity with the following adapted blessing:
בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יָהּ רוּחַ חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים אֲשֶׁר יָצְרָה אֶת אָדָם בְּחָכְמָה 
Transliteration: B’rukha at Yah, ruakh khey haolamim asher yatzrah et adam b’khokhmah.
Blessed are You, Yah, Eternal Source of life, who created humanity in wisdom
The change of name ceremony in Judaism is traditionally done for a gravely ill person, in order to divert the Angel of Death, and bring, God willing, a verdict of life. When a transgender person transitions, they are leaving their past life behind to a certain extent. The Tzitz Eliezer, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, z”l, wrote regarding gender transition, that a man who transitions to a woman need not give his wife a Get, the Jewish divorce document, because a dead person does not and cannot give his wife a Get.
Professor Joy Ladin, of Yeshiva University, a transwoman and scholar, prepared an extensive liturgy for transition, which includes the rituals of death. I personally do not see myself as a מת, a dead person. So I would rather focus on life today than death.
God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, in an affirmation of life and strength. Thus, following in the footsteps of Sarah Imeinu, I present myself to this Beit Din, to change my name to celebrate my life, and to affirm my identity as a transwoman.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֵלֹ – הֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂנִי כִּרְצוֹנוֹ
Transliteration: Barukh atah Hashem Eloheynu melekh haolam sheasani kirtzono.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who made me according to God’s will.
It was God’s will that I be created male AND female, and that I am transgender. We celebrate God’s will and wisdom in creating me, and all transgender people.
Rabbi I:
בְּרוּכָה הַבָּאָה

Transliteration: B’rukhah ha’ba’ah.

We welcome you to your new life, as we affirm your new identity.
You have been called to be true to your inner self —
you have taken the brave step to renew yourself
so that you can be wholly who you are.
You have chosen to recognize this transformation,
to distinguish this transformation as a holy moment,
in the midst of your Jewish community.
In Torah, the Jewish people are “The ivrim, the Hebrews,”
the crossing-over people.
As we crossed over the Red Sea to escape slavery,
to escape the narrow places of  Mitzrayimof Egypt,
we transformed ourselves —
a painful yet redemptive spiritual transition.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֵלֹ-הֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם מְחַיֶּה הָעוֹבְרִים
Transliteration: Barukh atah Hashem eloheynu melekh haolam m’khayey haovrim.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of time and space, who gives new life to those who transform.
Rabbi I:
To celebrate living, let’s sing together, from the Hallel, Psalm 115
ה’ זְכָרָֽנוּ יְבָרֵךְ, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת בֵּית אַהֲרֹן. יְבָרֵךְ יִרְאֵי ה’, הַקְּטַנִּים עִם הַגְּדֹלִים. יֹסֵף ה’ עֲלֵיכֶם, עֲלֵיכֶם וְעַל בְּנֵיכֶם. בְּרוּכִים אַתֶּם לַה, עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַֽיִם וָאָֽרֶץ. הַשָּׁמַֽיִם שָׁמַֽיִם להָ, וְהָאָֽרֶץ נָתַן לִבְנֵי אָדָם. לֹא הַמֵּתִים יְהַלְלוּ יָהּ, וְלֹא כָּל יֹרְדֵי דוּמָה. וַאֲנַֽחְנוּ נְבָרֵךְ יָהּ, מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם, הַלְלוּיָהּ.

Transliteration: Hashem z’kharanu y’varekh, y’varekh et beyt Yisrael, y’varekh et beyt Aharon. Y’varekh yirey Hashem, haktanim im hag’dolim. Yosef Hashem aleykhem, aleykhem v’al b’neykhem. B’rukhim atem la, osheyh shamayim va’aretz. Hashamayim lah, v’ha’aretz natan livney adam. Lo hameytim y’hal’luyah, v’lo kol yirdey dumah. V’anakhnu n’varekh Yah, meyatah v’ad olam haleylulah


Rabbi I:
Having acknowledged the holiness of this moment of transformation, we turn to the giving of your name.
מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְאִמּוֹתֵינוּ
אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב שָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה 
קַיָּם אֶת הָאִשָּׁה הַזֹּאת וְיִקָּרֵא אֶת שֶׁמַּה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל
Transliteration: Mi Sheberakh avoteynu v’imoteynu
Avraham, Yitzkhak, v’Yaakov Sara, Rivkah, Rakhel, v’Leah
kayam et haisha hazot v’yikarey et sheyma b’Yisrael.
May God who blessed our ancestors who came before us,
sustain this woman as we give her the Hebrew name she has chosen:
ירונה סמדר בת עשבלה ושמואל אריה
Yarona Smadar bat Ishabela U’Shmuel Aryeh
Rabbi II:
May this name be a source of joy to you, and inspire you to serve our people and all of humankind.
May all people rejoice in you and the life you create.
May you be blessed with a life filled with:
Torah, study;
Huppah, love worthy of God’s blessing; and
Ma’asim Tovim, a life filled with good deeds.
Together we say: Amen.
Rabbi III:
In Sefer Bereshit, Parashat Vayishlakh, Jacob wrestles with an Angel of God, after which he is told of his name change:
בר’:לב:כט: וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ כִּי אִם-יִשְֹרָאֵל
 כִּי-שָֹרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹ-הִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים וַתּוּכָל.

Transliteration: V’yomer lo Ya’akov yeyameyr od shimkha ki im Yisrael ki sarita im Elohim v’im anashim vatukhal

He said, your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but rather Yisrael, because you have wrestled with God and men, and overcome.
Just as Jacob wrestled with God and survived, so to have I wrestled with God and humans in proceeding through my life to this point of transition. I am grateful to everyone for their support of my transition, most specifically my wife Susan, without whom I would not be here.
Beit Din:
יְבָרֶכְךְ ה’ וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ.
יָאֵר ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ וִיחֻנֶּֽךָּ.
יִשָּׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.
Transliteration: Y’vareykhekh Hashem, vayishmareykha, yaeyr Hashem panav eleykha vikhuneykha, yisa Hashem panav eleykha v’yseym shalom.
May God bless you and keep you.
May God’s light shine upon you, and may God be gracious to you.
May you feel God’s Presence within you always, and may you find peace.
Let’s conclude this ritual with the Shehekhianu blessing:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה.

Transliteration: Barukh atah Adonay eloheynu melekh haolam, she’he’kheyanu v’kimanu v’higianu lazman hazeh

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all, for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season
 (Ceremony ends with the singing of Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov.)

Find the accompanying blog post by Rabbah Rona Matlow, here.


Share on facebook
Share on email

Ritualwell content is available for free thanks to the generous support of readers like you! Please help us continue to offer meaningful content with a donation today. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Rituals

Shop Ritualwell - Discover unique Judaica products

The Reconstructionist Network

Serving as central organization of the Reconstructionist movement

Training the next generation of groundbreaking rabbis

Modeling respectful conversations on pressing Jewish issues

Curating original, Jewish rituals, and convening Jewish creatives

Get the latest from Ritualwell

Subscribe for the latest rituals, online learning opportunities, and unique Judaica finds from our store.

The Reconstructionist Network