Praying for a Spouse

prayingforaspouse

An Israeli professor makes it her mission to collect lost prayers written by and for women over the years. Here are three that she found on the eternal topic of seeking love.

by Shulamit Reinharz

A Jewish Women’s Prayer Book, published in 2005 in Israel (where it sold 100,000 Hebrew copies, became a bestseller, and just won the 2008 National Jewish Book Award) and just published last month in English, is a moving collection of prayers written over hundreds of years by and for women. The genesis of Aliza Lavie’s A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book occurred on Erev Yom Kippur 2002, when Lavie read an interview with Hen Keinana, an Israeli woman who had lost both her mother (Ruthi Peled) and her baby daughter (Sinai) in a terrorist attack at a shopping center in Petah Tikva. After the attack, Hen and her husband moved to the United States to remove themselves from reminders of their loss.

Distraught at the woman’s plight, Lavie sought comfort when she went to synagogue for Kol Nidre services that evening. Standing among her fellow Jews, she wondered whether the prayers could also provide comfort for the bereaved woman, wherever she was.

Moreover, Lavie wondered if there were any specific Jewish prayers that would help Hen realize she was not alone, but rather was part of a tradition of other Jewish women who have responded to unspeakable loss. Despite her training in religious texts, Lavie could not think of any helpful sources specific to women.

A gnawing concern stayed with her for several years, until one Shabbat morning she found herself in the main synagogue in Rome. Much to her surprise, included among the prayers was a special blessing for women and their strength, written by an Italian woman about five centuries earlier in Hebrew! Thus began Lavie’s fruitful search for prayers written by and for Jewish women.

Below are three of the prayers published in the book for women seeking love…

The following prayer was composed by a rabbi last century for a woman to recite. Would you want the same thing today in a match? What would the role of your parents be?

Prayer to Find a Worthy Match
Rabbi Salman Mutzafi

May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, that You be filled with compassion for me and appoint me a spouse who is pleasant, God-fearing, and a learned scholar; intelligent and of good character, successful and blessed in his study and in his dealings. For thereby we shall be able to establish a Jewish home, as You have commanded us in Your holy Torah—”And you shall be fruitful and multiply.” When the young man who is proposed to me is worthy, when he is God-fearing and has good traits and good luck and is right for me, then in Your great compassion be gracious to me and incline my heart and the heart of my parents to complete the matter, that it may be good for us in this world and in the World to Come.

God Who is full of compassion, merciful and gracious, Who protects, supports, delivers, is upright and redeems (Mutzafi, 5752).

Rabbi Salman Mutzafi (1900-1975) was born in Baghdad, moved to Palestine in 1935, and was among the disciples of the kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Fetaya. He became known as a kabbalist in his own right, lived in Jerusalem and explored the depths of kabbalistic wisdom. His prayers for the welfare of the nation of Israel were famous.

Here is a prayer by the famous Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, written in the form of a poem. The prayer is a general request for everyone to find their true love. This poem allows us to see how valued marriage was, and how people believe there was one true love for each person. Do you hold that belief, as well?

Completion
Based on the teachings of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov

Loving God:
So numerous are
Those deprived of true love;
So many
Cannot find their match.
Have mercy upon them.
Source of love—
Allow
Every solitary, lonely soul
To experience the completion
That comes
with finding one’s match.

Rabbi Nahman of Breslov was born in 1772 in the town of Mezhibuzh in the Ukraine. He was the great-grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. In 1802, he arrived in the city of Breslov, where he established his circle of followers: the Breslov Hasidim. Rabbi Nahman of Breslov authored two books: one was burned, at his orders, while the other remains hidden among his followers. The books containing his teachings with which we are familiar were written by his student, Rabbi Natan Sternhartz.

Here is another prayer by a male rabbi. Would you consider this a precursor to J-Date? Why does the enormous challenge of finding a Jewish spouse persist?

Prayer for Single Women
Rabbi Yoel bin-Nun

I pray You, Lord God—
Hear the cry of the single women seeking to be married, and provide them with spouses;
May they set up their homes with joy and in purity
And raise their children with love, in good health, and with God’s blessing
(“Shabbat—for ceasing to cry out, and salvation will be near to come”),
and let us say, Amen (Bin-Nun, 5765. Courtesy of the author).

Rabbi Yoel bin-Nun was born in 1946 in Haifa. He studied at the Merkaz ha-Rav yeshiva and fought in the battle for Jerusalem in the Six-Day War. In 1984, he established a religious girls’ high school. For many years, he taught Jewish studies in secular schools and, together with Muki Tzur—a member of the kibbutz movement—developed a program for joint instruction by religious and secular teachers.

To learn more about Lavie and A Jewish Women’s Prayer Book, visit
http://www.alizalavie.com/english/index.html

About the Author

author_s_reinharzShulamit Reinharz is the Founder and Co-Director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, which publishes 614.

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