A New Ritual For Caregivers

Caregiver hands
Caregiver hands


These rituals are intended for someone who is a caregiver, who spends his or her emotional and physical time and energy supporting and taking care of a loved one who is ill.  This is a noble task, and one that requires immense strength and compassion.  It is important that in the process of helping a loved one, caregivers remember to provide for themselves as well.  Only if they feel spiritually, emotionally, and physically nourished will they be able to be an effective caregiver. 

I have divided this ritual into three parts.  They can be done sequentially, out of order, or at separate times.  Each section contains a version of the Mi Sheberach prayer for healing, both for the one who is ill and the one who cares for them.   The words here are a guide, a starting point for personal reflection and prayer.  They are intended to provide comfort, support, and healing to the caregiver of someone who is struggling with illness. 

Part 1


As you begin the day, you will be faced with the challenges of caring for your loved one.  These words are intended to provide you with the mindset you need to begin your day, to begin your process of love and care and compassion. 

Start with this ritual as soon as you have awoken, giving yourself time to feel refreshed and renewed.  Sit up either in bed or in a chair, taking deep breaths and focusing on your beating heart as you say the words below. 

Begin with words from Psalm 51, asking the Divine for guidance and support, and to be held in the hands of God.

יב  לֵב טָהוֹר, בְּרָא-לִי אֱלֹהִים;    וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן, חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי.
יג  אַל-תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ;    וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ, [1]

Lev Ta-hor b’ra-li, Eh-lo-him;

V’ru-ah na-khon ha-desh b’kir-bi

Ahl tash-li-khei-ni mil-fah-neh-kha

V’ru-ah kod-sh’kha ahl ti-kah mi-meh-ni.

Create for me a pure heart, God;

And the right spirit renew within me. 

Don’t cast me away from your Presence,

Don’t take your Holy Spirit away from me.[2]

Once we have awoken, we can ask God to bless us with the strength we need to embrace the day.

As I awaken, let this be my thought:

May my day be filled with acts of lovingkindness.

Let me drawn to learning and discernment,

And may my actions be shaped by mitzvot.

Keep me from iniquity, disgrace and sin;

May I not be overwhelmed by temptation or despair.

Distance me from evil people and false friends.

Let me cultivate a life of goodness.

May my hands reach out in kindness,

And I will serve God through acts of righteousness.

Today and every day, may I merit your mercy,

By living my life with compassion and love.

Holy One of Blessing, draw me to Your words;

Teach me the art of sacred living.[3]

Continue to breath deeply, giving yourself time and space to be still.

This next passage can be sung (sheet music is attached), or read.

May the waters of healing

Flow through my (her/his) soul

May the waters of healing

Flow through my (her/his) heart

May the waters of healing

Flow through my (her/his) form.

Ah-na El na, please Holy One

R’fa na la Let your Healing be done

Ah-na El na, Please heal my (her/his) soul

R’fa na la let me (her/him) be whole[4]

End this part of the ritual by taking one more deep breath in and out, and reciting the following:

There is a tiredness

That sleep can’t reach

An all consuming weariness

That makes it

Difficult to do the simplest things

It comes with resignation

And despair

And of trying times

And all the times we didn’t try


It comes of drifting when

The current seems too rough,

When swimming’s not an option

Nor drowning either.

It comes from knowing and

Not knowing

And yet half remembering the

Spark of light and life

That made that state a challenge

Long ago.

There is a tiredness

That sleep can’t reach

And yet wakefulness is filled

With faded dreams

Replaying endlessly

In sepia tones

Blurred and formless

And never quite in focus

And then one day there is the first awakening

A gentle stirring

Not unlike the first faint

Signs of spring

A whispered word, a quiet hope

A sharper image

And a small resolve.

Day by day

And almost imperceptibly

It grows and blossoms

An unseen energy,

A new awareness

As the numbness disappears

And with the feeling comes

The pain

But in perspective now

It takes its place

As we take ours

The healing has begun.[5]

Part 2


As the day continues on, it is easy to become tired and emotionally drained.  We lose steam as we continue to take care of our loved one.  It is difficult work, and we sometimes need time to reconnect with ourselves, to take small moments to center ourselves and feel whole.

Take a few moments for silence, for stillness, and for quiet reflection.

Show me how to offer hope.

Open Your hand with the colors of faith

That I might begin to fill in spaces

To strengthen another’s life.

Show me how to offer comfort.

Point out Your nesting place,

Feathered against the adversities

That wound those I love.

Show me the direction

When I am lost,

Searching to help

But finding no paths

Show me tolerance,

When I weary of helping,

And a long dreary day

Stretches toward a restless night.

You place before us life and love;

Show us endurance.

You place before us healing and hope;

Show us persistence.

Reach deep within me, Eternal Strength,

And bring my strength to consciousness

Pull it around us

Let it radiate with your power,

Let it guide our way[6]

We can pray for the healing of our loved one, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

God of wholeness,

God of healing,

Hear [my] words,

Accept [my] prayers

Send a special blessing of healing

To [my loved one],

Among all those of Your children

Who are in need of

Your healing blessing[7]

Sometimes we feel lonely, as if perhaps nobody understands what it is we are going through.  It is helpful to remember that we are held in the Divine presence, that God is holding us beneath God’s wings.

These words from Psalm 121 can be sung or read

אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים–    מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי.
[8]ב  עֶזְרִי, מֵעִם יְהוָה–    עֹשֵׂה, שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.

Eh-sa ei-nai el heh-harim

Mei-ay-yin ya-vo ezri

Ezri mei-im Adonai

O-she sha-ma-yim va-aretz

I lift up my eyes to the mountains:

Where will my help come from?

My help comes from Adonai

Creator of Heaven and Earth[9]

Taking space for ourselves and recognizing our own need for self care can be difficult, but it is vital to do so in order to be able to give the most of ourselves to our loved one.  This prayer asks God for the courage and strength to seek those moments of respite, and to not be afraid to walk out of our loved one’s room momentarily in order to do so.

Adonai, I come seeking courage. The courage to combat despair, the courage to find sparks of light in each moment of suffering, and the courage to ask others for help when I can no longer see the sparks in the darkness.
Adonai, I come seeking the sacred balance of chesed (loving-kindness) and gevurah (strength). Sustain my empathy as I create the distance I need for my own healing. Help me hold onto light as I release the suffering that has taken root in my heart. Teach me about tiferet (harmony). Teach me that letting go, like holding on, is an act of love.[10]

Part 3


As we lay down to sleep, we may still have lingering fears or worries.  Taking time before bed to decompress and re-center can allow a more restful night’s sleep.

As those who came before us were blessed

In the presence of the communities that sustained them,

So [I] offer [my] blessing for one needing support. 

(name of loved one)

May your spirit be calmed

And your pain be eased

May you receive comfort

From those who care for you

And may you drink from the waters

Of the ever giving well.[11]

We ask God as we lay down to sleep to stay with us, to embrace us and keep us close.

O my God

My soul’s compassion

My heart’s precious friend

I turn to You

I need to close out the noise

The noise that interrupts—

The noise that separates—

The noise that isolates.

I need to hear You again.

In the silence of my innermost being,

In the fragments of my yearned-for wholeness,

I hear whispers of Your presence—

Echoes of the past when You were with me

When I felt Your nearness

When together we walked—

When you held me close, embraced me in Your love,

Laughed with me in my joy.

I yearn to hear You again.

In Your oneness I find healing,

In the promise of Your love, I am soothed.

In your wholeness, I too can become whole again

Please listen to my call—

Help me find the words

Help me find the strength within

Help me shape my mouth, my voice, my heart

So that I can direct my spirit and find You in prayer

In words only the heart can speak

In songs only my soul can sing

Lifting my eyes and heart to You

Adonai S’fatai Tiftah- open my lips, Precious God, so that I can speak with You again.[12]

The last part of our ritual before sleep tells God we need God’s presence, we need to be held and rocked and guided through this difficult journey of caring for a loved one who is ill.  As we fall asleep, we know that we are being held in the hands of God.

The following can be sung (sheet music attached) or read.

Oh guide my steps

And help me find my way

I need your shelter now

Rock me in Your arms and guide my steps

And help me make this day

A song of praise to you

Rock me in your arms and guide my steps

שלומך סכת עלינו ופרוס

U-fros a-lei-nu suk-kat sh’lo-me-cha[13]

[1] https://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt2651.htm

[2] “The National Center for Jewish Healing: Tools and Resources, http://www.ncjh.org/tools.html accessed 10 Oct. 2014.

[3]Elyse Frishman, ed. Mishkan Tefilah: A Reform Siddur: Weekdays, Shabbat, Festivals, and Other Occasions of Public Worship. New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 2007, page 39

[4] Rabbi Weiner Shohama, “Jewish Healing Song.” http://reclaimingjudaism.org/teachings/jewish-healing-song, Accessed. 12 Oct. 2014.

[5] Hain, Marcia Gaubman in Freeman, David L., and Judith Z. Abrams. Illness and Health in the Jewish Tradition: Writings from the Bible to Today. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 272

[6] Hara E. Person, ed. The Mitzvah of Healing, (New York: UAHC Press, 2003), 138

[7] Bikur Cholim Coordinating Council, About Being A Visitor http://www.bikurcholimcc.org/visiting4.html Accessed 10/9/14

[8] https://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt26c1.htm

[9] The National Center for Jewish Healing: Tools and Resources, http://www.ncjh.org/tools.html accessed 10 Oct. 2014.

[10] Ritual Well, Mikveh Ritual for Caregivers, www.ritualwell.org, accessed 10/9/14

[11] Falk, Marcia in Freeman, David L., and Judith Z. Abrams. Illness and Health in the Jewish Tradition: Writings from the Bible to Today. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 111-112

[12] Hara E. Person, ed. The Mitzvah of Healing, (New York: UAHC Press, 2003), page 127-128

[13] Lyrics by Debra Winston

Be the first to comment

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.