מי ששכנה… היא תשכן עמנו | Mē She’shakhna… Hē Tishkon Imanu – a Seliḥot Plea for Biblical Women by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

There is a famous Seliḥot prayer where each of its lines has this structure: “May He who answered ___________, may he answer us.” The blank refers to assorted Biblical figures who faced great challenges, ranging from Avraham the Patriarch to Ezra the Scribe. The traditional list is also VERY male-focused, with the standard text only listing Esther from all the great Biblical women. This is a shame, and many have tried to remedy this. I have found myself under the opinion that all these remedies have a fault – they attempt to combine the original text with the new text. This means either the original text is shortened, or the full text is far too long. As well, the structure is very male-oriented as well, appealing to God’s male side and only using grammatically male language. . . .

תפילת גשם בזכות האמהות | Prayer for Rain in the Merit of the Matriarchs by Rabbi Jill Hammer

The time of Sukkot is a time of fullness and generosity, but also a time to pray for the coming season. Shemini Atzeret, the festival when we pray for rain, is an expression of our need for water, which in the Jewish tradition symbolizes life, renewal, and deliverance. Tefillat Geshem, a graceful fixture of the Ashkenazic liturgy, invokes the patriarchs as exemplars of holiness and model recipients of God’s love. This prayer uses water as a metaphor for devotion and faith, asking that God grant us life-sustaining rain. While its authorship is unknown, it is sometimes attributed to Elazar Kallir, the great liturgist who lived sometime during the first millenium. Each year, we are reminded of our people’s connection to the patriarchs and to the rhythms of water, spiritual and physical sources of life, through this medieval piyyut. While we know that rain is a natural process, formal thanksgiving for water as a source of life, energy, and beauty reminds us that our Creator is the source of our physical world and its many wonders. . . .


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