There is a lot written now regarding trans-gender issues. The subject has continued to get more attention and press during this month. For Boomers and our families this issue is sometimes played out in family conversations, grand-parenting concerns and the dynamics of personal choice. One hopes that the underlying ethic that surrounds all of this is one of love. Many years ago, while directing the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns, we created a huge resource book called KULANU. The book’s subtitle is “A Program and Resource Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Inclusion. It was a literal history of the movement from the Reform Jewish perspective and contained history, resolutions essays and rituals.
We did this book in 2007 and little did we know how meaningful it was to become. In the book is a small essay that leads into a blessing for a person who is transitioning from one gender to another. The essay and the blessing did cause some concern among non liberal Jews, as one reporter announced in an intersting call to our office. He was concerned why we would publish such a blessing. We explained that we have people who are doing this, it is a major life transforming moment and should not their Judiasm be present and what better, and more traditional way than via a blessing.
The colleague who wrote the essay explained that the verb used has a basic root (avar) meaning to “cross over,” but that it also conveys the sense of spiritual transformation. The word, the rabbi wrote, is used in the blessing to indicate the very real sense of transitioning genders which involves a physical and spiritual crossing. The blessing has three parts, a blessing giving thanks for the transition, a blessing giving thanks that we are all in God’s image and finally the traditional sh’heche’yanu. The CCAR Press, in its “Where Healing Resides” also has a wonderful meditation on Transitioning Genders”. (CCAR Press, p.45)
So, here is the three part blessing from KULANU.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olom, ha’maavir l’ovrim
Blessed is the Eternal, Ruler of time and space, the Transforming One to those who transform/transition, cross over
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olom, she-asani b’tzelem Elohim
Blessed in the Eternal, Ruler of time and space, who has made me in God’s image
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olom, sh’heche’yanu v’kiy’manu, v’higianu lazman hazeh
Blessed is God, Ruler of time and space, who has kept us alive, and sustained us and helped us to arrive at this moment. (Kulanu. p.233.234)
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.