SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA: HONORING WOMEN OF VALOR, MAR. 20, 2009

We first had a community Shabbat dinner. As part of the Shabbat service, psalms were said to honor our matriachs:

Eshet Chayil: A Woman of Valor1

An accomplished woman, who can find? Her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband's heart relies on her and he shall lack no fortune.
She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with her hands willingly.
She is like the merchant ships, she brings her bread from afar.
She arises while it is still night, and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidservants.
She plans for a field, and buys it. With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins in strength, and makes her arms strong.
She knows that her merchandise is good. Her candle does not go out at night.
She sets her hands to the distaff, and holds the spindle in her hands.
She extends her hands to the poor, and reaches out her hand to the needy.
She fears not for her household because of snow, because her whole household is warmly dressed.
She makes covers for herself, her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known at the gates, when he sits among the elders or the land.
She makes a cloak and sells it, and she delivers aprons to the merchant.
Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue.
She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise and praise her, her husband lauds her.
Many women have done worthily, but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears God shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

1 A Woman of Valor, called Eshet Chayil in Hebrew, is a hymn which is customarily recited on Friday evenings, after returning from synagogue. Eshet Chayil is a twenty-two verse poem, attributed to King Solomon and written as a tribute to his mother Batsheva which concludes the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 31). The poem has an acrostic arrangement in which the verses begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in regular order. The poem describes the woman of valor as one who is energetic, righteous, and capable. According to Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, the poem is a reference to the Shabbat Queen, the spiritual soui-mate of the Jewish nation. According to commentators, the poem is allegorical. A Woman of Valor has been interpreted as a reference to the Shechinah (Divine presence), the Shabbat, the Torah, wisdom, and the soul.

Psalms for a New Day by Debbie Perlrnan

Psalm 78: A Song for Renewal

As Purim turns into Pesach
You bid us begin, Eternal One
You coax us to peel away the winter layers
That have kept us muffled from You.

In the gray of lengthening days of early spring
Call us to turn to You.

As Purim turns into Pesach.
We fling open windows and fill our souls
With fresher air and warming winds
To move us toward a new beginning.

Call us to You in the changeable fragile days
That we might be refreshed.
You have given us this constant gift of renewal,
Of starting again and again,
Even as You create the word anew each week.

You bid us to open our coats to inhale deeply,
To sing in the damp and warming air
As we move toward our season of freedom.

As Purim turns into Pesach,
We arm ourselves again beneath Your Hand.
Cleaning our hearts of debris and denial,
Turning in joy to the Eternal G-D


Psalm 79 Rosh Chodesh Nisan

In the dark new moon of Nisan
You hang up the promise of redemption
Upon budding spring branches
That we might begin to ready ourselves
In the first month, the month of beginnings
We thank You, O redeemer for the promise held out.

As a calling bird sings in the predawn hour,
So You summon us to awaken and, to arise,
To awaken and prepare our hearts
For the time of our release from bondage,

In the days of spring beginnings,
We praise You, O Redeemer, for the beckoning call.

Early, early, we will shake out our garments,
Shaking out the pounded crumbs of anger
That itch against our skin
And abrade our souls with sharp edges.

Free us, O Redeemeer, from the shattering fears
That have been our master
Free us from the commanding of hatred
That we might bow before You alone,

Nisan begins.
We will hasten to prepare,
To ready our hearts for freedom


A New Moon/Full Moon Meditation By Judith Rose2

We come together at the New Moon
to honor our silent energy
to come out of the neeeded darkness
the silence of Soul gathering

There is a quiet energy beginning with the New Moon
and rising to the Full which
reflects our capacity as women to
become fully developed beings
There is a current we share with our Selves and
our daughters
and that current is a circle
And that circle has an inner spiral and an outer curve
And this is a meditation
to balance the inner voice
with the outer movement.

2Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh Anthology (Jason Aronson, 1996),


Rosh Chodesh Prayer by Sheila Peltz Weinberg

Dear God, God of our mothers and fathers,
Renew us this month and this year
Direct us
Toward goodness and blessing
Toward the joyful
Toward liberation and challenge, as well as
Toward patience and consolation
Toward becoming ever more human beings.
Let us become capable of supporting ourselves,
Our families and friends,
Let us serve our community in dignity.

Direct us
Toward life and peace
Toward observing our blindness
Toward struggling with our goals
Toward forgiving ourselves and each other.
You brought us near with an intention
You gave us the awareness of the cycles of the moon
May we use this gift as an opportunity
To understand what you intend for us.


Rosh Chodesh and Women -

Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer 45:
Rosh Chodesh has come to be associated with women as according to the following a Midrash: "The women heard about the construction of the golden calf and refused to submit their jewelry to their husbands. Instead they said to them: "You want to construct an idol and mask which is an abomination, and has no power of redemption. We won't listen to you." And the Holy One, Blessed be, rewarded them in this world in that they would observe the new moons more than men, and in the next world in that they are destined to be renewed like the new moon."

Women, Work and Rosh Chodesh:
In the Talmud, women were instructed to refrain from work on the day of the New Moon as a reward for not contributing their jewelry toward building the Golden Calf. And Rashi, the 11th century French commentator, instructed us that women should not sew, spin, or weave on this holiday. Other traditional sources have added that women should refrain from doing laundry and avoid any type of "women's work" on this day.

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