A woman, who is about to have a child of her own, would like closure around her difficult relationship with her mother. This ritual signifies a letting go of the past and entering into a new phase of relationship. The goal is to make peace with her Mother and move on with her life, and for each woman to feel compassion and honor the other, while still each maintaining their individual strength. The ritual is in a garden at the synagogue.
After welcoming mother and daughter, we sit in three chairs that form a circle. In the center is a low table with two candlesticks, candles, and matches. There is an earthen bowl with water, a bar of soap, two fluffy hand towels, and a bottle of lotion. There are also two pens, two envelopes, writing paper and two prayer shawls – belonging to the mother and daughter.
[mother’s name] and [daughter’s name], b’ruchot habaot b’shem Adonai.
Blessed are the ones who come in the name of God.
(Mother and daughter are invited to each light a candle and recite a blessing)
Shekinah, accept the ceremony of your people.
Bless this Mishkan with your Presence.
Receive our prayers and embrace them.
Fill our hearts with compassion, understanding and peace.1
What do you leave behind?
The Bible tells us that we are commanded to honor our parents. Implicit in this command is the expectation that our parents honor us as well. There is no perfect way to achieve that goal, and yet we can enter into a new stage of relating to each other, and a new stage of honoring each other as individuals. Let the first stage of this ceremony begin with honoring the covenant of family. While the covenant is typically thought of as the special relationship between God and the children of Israel, we can also apply it to the special relationship between parents and children, a relationship of mutual love, of mutual respect, of mutual commitment. This is the covenant of family that we honor and invoke today. We shall begin by letting go of the past impurities that cloud our minds from thinking clearly and our hearts from loving purely.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu, Melekh ha’olam, zocher ha’brit.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, ruler of the universe, who is mindful of the covenant.
(Daughter takes mother’s hands)
I am [name], bat [mother’s name], bat [grandmother’s name], bat [great-grandmother’s name], bat [great great-grandmother’s name], bat [great great great-grandmother’s name]. I am now ready to wash away from my daughter [daughter’s name] the stains of guilt and pain and hurt that stand in our way of loving each other. May God cleanse these hands that I created and brought forth from my womb.
(Mother gently washes her daughter’s hands, dries them, and anoints them with a scented cream. Mother pours the soapy water into the earth and refills the earthen bowl with fresh water.)
(Holding the hands of her daughter.)
“I am [name], bat [mother’s name], bat [grandmother’s name], bat [great-grandmother’s name], bat [great great-grandmother’s name], bat [great great great-grandmother’s name . I am now ready to wash away from my mother the stains of guilt and pain and hurt that stand in our way of loving each other. May God cleanse these hands which have cared for me.
(Daughter washes her mother’s hands, gently dries them, and anoints them with a scented lotion. She pours the water into the earth.)
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu, Melekh ha’olam, zocher ha’brit birchitzat hayadai’im.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who is mindful of the covenant through the washing of the hands.
What do you honor from the past?
After letting go of some past pain, we are ready to identify specific characteristics that we would like to honor in each other, and bring into the light in our present relationships.
(Leader directs mother and daughter in a guided meditation.)
Breathe and let go of tension, exhaling fear and tension and worry. Look into your heart, to open to all that is good and pure and loving. Let yourself feel what it is like to love someone, to open their hearts without fear of loss or abandonment. Let yourself feel what that is like. (Pause) When you are ready, open your eyes.
(Request that mother and daughter each take a piece of paper and write a letter to each other, whatever is in their hearts, the strengths that they truly admire in each other, and the gifts that they have received and are grateful for. After five minutes, they are invited to read their letters to each other. Then they each place their letter in an envelope and hand it to the other.)
What is your vision for the future?
The next part of the ceremony has to do with the future. What new blessings do you wish to give each other? What do you wish for each other in the future?
(Each woman has brought her prayer shawl. Mother wraps her prayer shawl around her daughter and blesses her, saying:)
Yevarechech Adonai veyishmerech
May God bless you and guard you
Ya’er Adonai panav elayich vichunech
May God’s light shine on you and be gracious unto you.
Yisa Adonai panav elaich v’yasem lach shalom
May God’s presence rise toward you and give you peace
May you be blessed with happiness, health, and good relationships, and may all you dreams come true.
(Daughter wraps her tallit around her mother and blesses her with A Priestly Blessing2:)
May the blessing of peace be upon you.
May love abide with you.
May Shekinah illuminate your heart
Now and forever more.
May you be blessed with a long life, health, good friends, and a loving heart, and may we love each other the best we can, for as long as we both shall live.
Conclude by reciting Shehechiyanu together:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, shehechianu v’kiamanu, v’higianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are you, Eternal One our God, sovereign of all worlds, who gave us life and sustained us in life, and brought us to this time.
1She Who Dwells Within, by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, p. 128.
2Ibid., p. 194.