By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Mevorchim. This special name is given to any Shabbat that directly precedes the arrival of the new month (Rosh Chodesh). The word mevorchim means “blessed” for it has its own uniqueness in its ability to draw down blessings. The Shabbat service at the Shuls or Betei Kinneset contains special congregational prayers that are recited in order to draw down the blessings embedded in the month. It is said to be a very auspicious time to tap into the blessings and begin the new month on a note of awareness, gratitude and good intentions in alignment with the deeper meaning of the month itself.
Prior to announcing the day and time the new month begins, the doors of the Aron (the ark which houses the Torah scrolls) is opened, symbolizing the opening of the heavenly gates of mercy. At this time, the leader of the prayer service blesses the congregation for good health and good fortune in the coming month. On Shabbat Mevorchim, the theme of redemption is stressed as the message of Shabbat. Therefore if one is able to attend Shabbat services, it is highly advised to do so.
Additionally, there are special supplications offered by women in the privacy of their home in an exquisite dialogue with the Divine. These supplications or Techinas in Yiddish have been spoken by women for many generations. These special prayers are collected in a beautiful little book called “Techinas: A Voice from the Heart: a collection of Jewish Women’s Prayers” by Rebbetzin Rivka Zakutinsky. The intimate words of the prayers themselves feel as if they have a direct line to G-ds abode in heaven. The author felt compelled to preserve these techinas and present them to the women of today so their dynamic depth and beauty can be tapped into. Rebbetzin Zakutinsky felt that by attaching ourselves to the techinas of our mothers and grandmothers, who uttered these supplications with such deep, heartfelt devotion, we can tap into their holy channel and flood the world with an outcry to the Creator.
In the introduction to the book on techinas, Rebbetzin Zakutinsky reminds us that “Supplications articulate what the heart longs to express. They emanate from a feeling of dependency: the knowledge that G-d is not only our Creator, but that He is the one who provides for our every need. She explains that the root of the word techina is chein which means grace or favor.” When Moses prayed, in Deuteronomy 3:23, he said “V’etchanan….”and I requested. Rebbetzin Zakutinsky explains that G-ds bounty is not sought out as a deserved reward, but simply chenam, for free. G-d desires our prayers and it is our job to ask for everything. She explains that the women of olden days turned to the techinas to evoke feelings within themselves that would awaken and arouse their natural passions for G-d. They did this to become even more aware of His nearness to them in all they did and at all times.
Unlike the standard prayers which are recited in the plural, communal voice, the techinas are expressed in the singular, the voice of the individual. They are a way of talking to G-d that grew out of the daily lives of Jewish women during very difficult travails and could only be said by them. They touch upon all manner of women’s concerns, hopes and dreams i.e., the holidays, women’s mitzvot, children, husbands, sickness, rosh chodesh, healing etc. “A Voice From the Heart” is a precious book every woman should consider owning in order to touch the sacred supplications of generations of Jewish women and to add their own precious voice to these special prayers.
As we see from the news in Israel and the world, strong, heartfelt supplications are desperately needed today and everyday. Please, seize the power of Shabbat Mevorchim which ushers in the powerful month of Kislev. Storm the heavens with passionate supplications for our beloved nation of Israel and our precious Holy Land. Count yourself among the holy women who know and understand the power of this special time in the Jewish calendar. Don’t let it slip by without acknowledging it. It is a gift for us to use and celebrate.
With blessings for a powerful, heartfelt tefillah this Shabbat and all Shabbatot, as Shabbat is the power-source of the nation of Israel.