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PNINA RABINOWITZ With new translations, ancient prayers inspire



Published: Sat, June 16, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



For the traditional Jewish woman, the six days of the week culminate in the Sabbath -- the last day that was created, the one that compensates for all others.

That day of family bonding is ushered in by the Friday night candle-lighting ritual before sundown. The outside world of heartbreak is shut out.

The rituals chiefly comprise prayers, lighting the Sabbath candles and replicating a ritual sacrifice by breaking off a piece of the Sabbath challah bread.

For women, these prayers are our ancient template for our worldly conduct, such as honoring our husbands and keeping kosher. But new prayer translations that are in harmony with Jewish law bring freshness to the ritual.

The prayers: Couples who follow Rabbi Marcia Prager's new blessing translation murmur, "You are a fountain of blessing, my G-d. You make us sacred beings through these spiritual practices, and instruct us to light the lights of Shabbat."

Then the husband sings the prayer of praise, "The Woman of Valor."

"She is like a merchant's ship; from afar she brings her sustenance," reads the language from Proverbs. "She envisions a field and buys it. She spreads out her palms to the poor, and extends her hands to the destitute. Distinctive in the councils is her husband, when he sits with the elders of the land. Vain is beauty; a G-d fearing woman -- she should be praised. ... Let her be praised at the gates by her very own deeds."

The goal for the Jewish woman is to be a helpmate in loving balance to her husband; the game plan is to feel united with G-d while functioning as a wife day to day.

For me, these new words overcome staid language and energize spirituality in the home.

Charity: All Jews also have a divine injunction to repair the world while remembering that all souls are created in the divine image. This injunction includes the highest rung of Jewish charity: to help the poor become financially self-sufficient. An example would be entering into partnership with a poor head of household or providing a job.

To help me fulfill this mission, I am grateful for other new interpretive translations of ancient blessings, such as this version of the morning prayer by Rabbi Rami Shapiro:

Blessed is the Source of Life of all the World

Whose image is mirrored in my own.

Whose freedom challenges me to be free.

Whose teaching makes me a Jew.

Whose wisdom opens the blind eye.

Whose compassion commands us to clothe the naked.

Whose justice bids us to free the captive.

Whose love calls us to lift the fallen.

Whose unity demands that we care for all life.

Whose being provides us with infinite possibilities.

Whose Torah guides my every step.

Whose wonder removes sleep from my eyes, that I might awake to the wonder of life!

Cards of remembrance: And I have been given other old-new spiritual tools. While performing mundane tasks, I can use spiritual flash cards designed to express G-d's voice speaking to us through our soul:

"You have what you need to be happy right now in this precious present moment," says one.

Another says, "If I can't get it with love, I'm not supposed to have it."

The author of the flash cards, Miriam Adahan, suggests taking more of these nurturing neshama (soul) statements if I feel sad or angry.

If someone slights me, I say mentally, "Thank you for the chance to improve my character traits."

XPnina Rabinowitz is a former writer for the Jerusalem Post who lives in Liberty.




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