Friday, December 18, 2015

My Transition/Beit Din Ritual

I received a request for this ritual. I couldn't directly upload it to Facebook, so I am posting it here on my blog.  With thanks for his amazing assistance, to 
Rabbi Jason Levine, Temple Beth Am, Seattle...

Transition Ritual for Rabbah Rona Matlow

December 15, 2015 – 3 Tevet 5776

Rabbi I:
הישן יתחדש והחדש יתקדש

The old will be made new, and the new will be made holy.
(Rav Abraham Isaac Kook)

In the creation story, Bereshit 1:27 states that when God created humanity,

זכר ונקבה ברא אותם
Male AND female, God created them

Rabbi II:
Midrash Bereshit Rabbah notes (5:1) that this meant that Adam haRishon was in fact Androgynous. The modern term for this is Intersex. The traditional understanding of this verse is that God created humanity in a binary state, male OR female. By understanding that we are created male AND female, we recognize that God gave every human characteristics of all gender, and that our gender identity is somewhere on a spectrum, not a binary state.

Rabbi III:
Each morning, and every time we use the bathroom, we praise God’s wisdom in creation of humanity with the following adapted blessing:

ברוכה את יה, רוח חי העולמים, אשר יצרה את אדם בחוכמה
Blessed are You, Yah, Eternal Source of life, who created humanity in wisdom

The change of name ceremony in Judaism is traditionally done for a gravely ill person, in order to divert the Angel of Death, and bring, God willing, a verdict of life. When a transgender person transitions, they are leaving their past life behind to a certain extent. The Tzitz Eliezer, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, z”l, wrote regarding gender transition, that a man who transitions to a woman need not give his wife a Get, the Jewish divorce document, because a dead person does not and cannot give his wife a Get.

Professor Joy Ladin, of Yeshiva University, a transwoman and scholar, prepared an extensive liturgy for transition, which includes the rituals of death. I personally do not see myself as a מת, a dead person. So I would rather focus on life today than death.
God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, in an affirmation of life and strength.  Thus, following in the footsteps of Sarah Imeinu, I present myself to this Beit Din, to change my name to celebrate my life, and to affirm my identity as a transwoman.

ברוך אתה ה', אל-הינו מלך העולם, שעשני כרצונו.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who made me according to God’s will.

It was God’s will that I be created male AND female, and that I am transgender. We celebrate God’s will and wisdom in creating me, and all transgender people.

Rabbi I:
ברוכה הבאה...

We welcome you to your new life, as we affirm your new identity.

You have been called to be true to your inner self —
you have taken the brave step to renew yourself
so that you can be wholly who you are.
You have chosen to recognize this transformation,
to distinguish this transformation as a holy moment,
in the midst of your Jewish community.
In Torah, the Jewish people are “The ivrim, the Hebrews,”
the crossing-over people.
As we crossed over the Red Sea to escape slavery,
to escape the narrow places of  Mitzrayim, of Egypt,
we transformed ourselves —
a painful yet redemptive spiritual transition.

ברוך אתה ה', אל-הינו מלך העולם, מחיה העוברים.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of time
and space, who gives new life to those who transform.

Rabbi I:
To celebrate living, let’s sing together, from the Hallel, Psalm 115
הָ זְכָרָֽנוּ יְבָרֵךְ, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת בֵּית אַהֲרֹן. יְבָרֵךְ יִרְאֵי ה, הַקְּטַנִּים עִם הַגְּדֹלִים. יֹסֵף ה עֲלֵיכֶם, עֲלֵיכֶם וְעַל בְּנֵיכֶם. בְּרוּכִים אַתֶּם לַה, עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַֽיִם וָאָֽרֶץ. הַשָּׁמַֽיִם שָׁמַֽיִם להָ, וְהָאָֽרֶץ נָתַן לִבְנֵי אָדָם. לֹא הַמֵּתִים יְהַלְלוּ יָהּ, וְלֹא כָּל יֹרְדֵי דוּמָה. וַאֲנַֽחְנוּ נְבָרֵךְ יָהּ, מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם, הַלְלוּיָהּ.
Rabbi I:
Having acknowledged the holiness of this moment of transformation, we turn to the giving of your name.

מי שברך אבותינו ואמותינו
אברהם, יצחק ויעקוב, שרה, רבקה, רחל, ולאה

May God who blessed our ancestors who came before us,

קים את האשה הזאת ויקרא את שמה בישראל

sustain this woman as we give her the Hebrew name she has chosen:

ירונה סמדר בת עשבלה ושמואל אריה
Yarona Smadar bat Ishabela U’Shmuel Aryeh

Rabbi II:
May this name be a source of joy to you, and inspire you to serve our people and all of humankind.
May all people rejoice in you and the life you create.
May you be blessed with a life filled with:
Torah, study;
Chuppah, love worthy of Gods blessing; and
Ma’asim Tovim, a life filled with good deeds.
Together we say: Amen.

Rabbi III:
In Sefer Bereshit, Parashat Vayishlakh, Jacob wrestles with an Angel of God, after which he is told of his name change:

בר':לב:כט: וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ כִּי אִם-יִשְֹרָאֵל
 כִּי-שָֹרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹ-הִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים וַתּוּכָל.
He said, your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but rather Yisrael, because you have wrestled with God and men, and overcome.

Just as Jacob wrestled with God and survived, so to have I wrestled with God and humans in proceeding through my life to this point of transition.  I am grateful to everyone for their support of my transition, most specifically my wife Susan, without whom I would not be here.


Beit Din:

יְבָרֶכְךְ ה' וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ.
יָאֵר ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ וִיחֻנֶּֽךָּ.
יִשָּׂא ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.

May God bless you and keep you.
May Gods light shine upon you, and may God be gracious to you.
May you feel Gods Presence within you always, and may you find peace.

Let’s conclude this ritual with the Shehekhianu blessing:

ברוך אתה ה', אל-הינו מלך העולם, שהחיינו, וקיימנו, והגיענו לזמן
Bless are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all, for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season.

 (Ceremony ends with the singing of Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov.)

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