Books of Jewish women’s prayers

This article is about books on prayers written by Jewish women, for Jewish women.

Here’s a brief introduction – About women’s books of prayers, from thetakeaway@jtslibrary

The following image is from The Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project

Tekhina women's prayer after childbirth

A Book of Jewish Women’s Prayers: Translated from the Yiddish
by Norman Tarnor, Jason Aronson, 1977

From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, there developed in Europe an extensive Jewish literature consisting of storybooks, ethical treatises, songs, dictionaries, translations of the daily and holiday prayer book, and what came to be known as techinnot – manuals of private devotion.

Little has been written on these techinnot, despite the fact that a century ago almost every Jewish home had collections of such Yiddish prayers. These techinnot reflected conditions of Jewish life in central and eastern Europe for centuries. In some prayers, we find the concern of a worried wife who expresses anxiety for her husband, who has to travel on business and is often on the road. She prays for his protection from violent men, from imprisonment, and from death.

Many passages reflect social and economic problems, the tribulations of raising children, illnesses, and a hundred other details of daily life. In this extensive volume, Dr. Tarnor has compiled and translated selections of techinnot originally published in Vilna.

Also included are the original introductory remarks to the selections to provide a fuller appreciation of the text. A notes section at the end of the book illuminates the meaning of the techinnot and occasionally reveals the nature or background of some aspect of a techinnah.

The author also proffers a variety of explanations as to the reason these books have been neglected for so long despite their popularity a century ago. In recognizing the importance of these timeless prayers, Norman Tarnor has afforded the modern Jewish woman a glimpse into a lost tradition, thus providing her with valuable responses to important religious and daily experiences in her journey throughwomanhood.

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Voices of the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women

Chava Weissler, Beacon Press, 1999

“With Voices of the Matriarchs, Chava Weissler restores balance to our knowledge of Judaism by providing the first look at the Yiddish prayers women created during centuries of exclusion from men’s observance. In Weissler’s hands, these prayers (called thkines) open a new window into early modern European Jewish women’s lives, beliefs, devotion, and relationships with God.”

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Seyder Tkhines: The Forgotten Book of Common Prayer for Jewish Women Hardcover – August 11, 2004

Devra Kay

The Seyder Tkhines, translated from its original Yiddish by noted tkhines scholar, Devra Kay, and centerpiece of this groundbreaking work, was a standard Yiddish prayer book for women. It first appeared in Amsterdam in 1648, and continued to be published for the next three generations, usually inside the Hebrew synagogue prayer book. A product of an age when mysticism pervaded mainstream Judaism, the Seyder Tkhines provided women with newly composed, alternative daily prayers that were more specific to their needs. Included in this volume is a unique Yiddish manuscript dating from the 17th century – a collection of prayers written specifically for a rich, pregnant woman, which Kay discovered among the rare books of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.

Now, for the first time, these prayers have been skillfully translated and brought to public view. In addition to her translations, Kay presents her own extensive commentary, providing a deeper understanding of the historic, religious, and cultural background of this period in Jewish history. This unparalleled book will have special appeal to those interested in the social, literary, and religious history of women, as well as the history of the Yiddish language and literature. The interest in these forgotten prayers and their significance to the lives of women has now been revived, and these tkhines are ready to be rediscovered by a modern readership.

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“A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book”

Aliza Lavie, Hebrew edition, 2008

On the eve of Yom Kippur in 2002, Aliza Lavie, a university professor, read an interview with an Israeli woman who had lost both her mother and her baby daughter in a terrorist attack. As Lavie stood in the synagogue later that evening, she searched for comfort for the bereaved woman, for a reminder that she was not alone but part of a great tradition of Jewish women who have responded to unbearable loss with strength and fortitude. Unable to find sufficient solace within the traditional prayer book and inspired by the memory of her own grandmother’s steadfast knowledge and faith, Lavie began researching and compiling prayers written for and by Jewish women.

A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book is the result—a beautiful and moving one-of-a-kind collection that draws from a variety of Jewish traditions, through the ages, to commemorate every occasion and every passage in the cycle of life, from the mundane to the extraordinary. This elegant, inspiring volume includes special prayers for the Sabbath and holidays and important dates of the Jewish year; prayers to mark celebratory milestones, such as bat mitzva, marriage, pregnancy, and childbirth; and prayers for comfort and understanding in times of tragedy and loss. Each prayer is presented in Hebrew and in an English translation, along with fascinating commentary on its origins and allusions. Culled from a wide range of sources, both geographically and historically, this collection testifies that women’s prayers were—and continue to be—an inspired expression of personal supplication and desire.

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Hours of Devotion: Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women

Dinah Berland

Schocken; Reprint edition (November 26, 2008)

Written in the nineteenth century, rediscovered in the twenty-first, timeless in its wisdom and beauty, Hours of Devotion by Fanny Neuda, (the daughter of a Moravian rabbi), was the first full-length book of Jewish prayers written by a woman for women. In her moving introduction to this volume–the first edition of Neuda’s prayer book to appear in English for more than a century–editor Dinah Berland describes her serendipitous discovery of Hours of Devotion in a Los Angeles used bookstore. She had been estranged from her son for eleven years, and the prayers she found in the book provided immediate comfort, giving her the feeling that someone understood both her pain and her hope. Eventually, these prayers would also lead her back to Jewish study and toward a deeper practice of her Judaism.

Originally published in German, Fanny Neuda’s popular prayer book was reprinted more than two dozen times in German and appeared in Yiddish and English editions between 1855 and 1918. Working with a translator, Berland has carefully brought the prayers into modern English and set them into verse to fully realize their poetry. Many of these eighty-eight prayers, as well as Neuda’s own preface and afterword, appear here in English for the first time, opening a window to a Jewish woman’s life in Central Europe during the Enlightenment. Reading “A Daughter’s Prayer for Her Parents,” “On the Approach of Childbirth,” “For a Mother Whose Child Is Abroad,” and the other prayers for both daily and momentous occasions, one cannot help but feel connected to the women who’ve come before.

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