New Jewish Life Cycle and Transition Rituals


Updated May 2012

In recent times, an assortment of life cycle rituals have been developed for individual and family transitions important to the modern Jew. All are based on traditional elements and ceremonies whose enduring meaning are as powerful in these new settings as they are in their original ones.

These adapted rituals — for ending or changing jobs, honoring matriarchs, graduating students and new grandparents — increase the moments when friends witness each other’s movement to a new phase of life. The support of community in these emotionally powerful times is a treasure worth keeping.

Two notes:

  • If you’re part of a synagogue community, you might want to ask a rabbi or cantor to lead these rituals. If not, ask a friend of family member to act as the “leader.”
  • As with other blessings and prayers, translation of Hebrew to English can vary greatly, as can the transliteration. Feel free to find the wording that feels best to you.

These rituals are meant to inspire you. Feel free to adapt them and create your own!

A Ritual for Those Ending Jobs and Beginning a New Stage in Life

All sing together:
Kol ha-olam kulo, gesher tzar m’od, v’ha-ikar lo l’fa’ched k’lal.
All of the world is just a narrow bridge, the only thing is to not be afraid.
[Rabbi Nachman of Bratslov]

We come together today as a community to mark a new beginning — a new era of life. But before any of us is fully able to be open to all of the beauty and excitement of a new stage, it is important to pay tribute to what has come before.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every pur­pose under heaven. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. A time to break down, and a time to build up. [From Song of Songs]

For ____ years, I worked (or volunteered) at ___________. This work taught me __________. Now, I am moving on to a new stage of life. In order to move forward I will symbolically cast away the old to make room for the new.

Celebrant affirms commitment through examples such as:

  • I have emptied my briefcase and thrown away my office calendar.
  • I have given my uniform to my grandchildren to use for dress-up.
  • I have thrown away my badge and identification card.
  • I have given away my gardening tools to the younger volunteers.

N’varekh Yah Shekhinah, ruach ha’olam, goremet et l’hash­likh.
We bless Yah, Divine Presence, Life’s Breath of the universe, Who brings about a time to cast away.
N’varekh Yah Shekhinah, ruach ha’olam, ha’mav’dilah bein t’kufah litkufah.
We bless Yah, Divine Presence, Life’s Breath of the universe, Who distinguishes season from season.

We now are ready to begin a something new. We are open to new experiences and learning and to new blessings.

I invite you all to offer blessings.

Congregants call out blessings. (i.e. May you find beauty in every day. May you finally learn to relax! May you do all those things you didn’t have time for!)

Rabbi with Celebrants:
Prayer for Going on a Journey
May you be blessed as you go on your way
May you be guided in peace
May you be blessed with health and joy
May this be your blessing. Amen
May you be sheltered by the wings of peace
May you be kept in safety and in love
May grace and compassion find their way into your soul
May this your blessing. Amen.

Kavod Ha’em — Honoring Our Matriarchs

(Adapted from Pat Barr z”l, Rabbi Fredi Cooper and Lori Lefkovitz.)

We pause to honor these women by naming the values that guide their lives: (Give specific accomplishments of each woman associating them with the following values.)

  • Tikkun Olam — repair of the world. This Jewish idea presumes that each human action affects the state of the universe and that our world can be repaired through social action.
  • Gemilut Hasadim — acts of kindness. This concept, different from but related to charity or giving to the needy, involves car­ing for others’ needs through a generous sharing of oneself.
  • Tzedakah — acts of justice. It is the Jewish way of affirming that sharing material possessions corrects imbalances in society.
  • Ahavah — love. Love for humanity and/or love for God.

Today we honor _____________, daughter of ___________ (add other relationships as may be appropriate: mother of and grandmother of _______________).

Eishet Hayil — A Woman of Valor
A mother of generations, a woman of valor. She is precious in the gifts that she gave to her family. Her children have found trust and truth in these gifts. We pray that we will follow in patterns that she taught. These women are robed in strength and dignity. They smile at the future. Their words speak wisdom, and their tone and gestures teach kindness. We benefit and learn from their example. May they be recognized daily for all their accomplishments and live on in grandeur.

Each person has a Torah that they received at Sinai, which they teach by their actions.

All recite or sing:
Etz Hayim He — It is a Tree of Life
It is a tree of life to them that take possession of it. A source of happiness to each one who upholds it. Its paths are all pleasant. And all its paths lead to peace.

Closing Kiddish:
May we all work to pass the wisdom and sweetness of these matriarchs to the next generation and to inspire all women with their righteousness. Blessed are You, our God, Sovereign of the World, who creates the fruit of the tree and the vine.

Grandparenting Ritual

Celebrate new grandparents twice a year at Shabbat with a ritual. Invite all new grandparents to put their grandchildren’s pictures on an easel or bulletin board near the sanctuary, with their own photos. Just before the Torah reading, call all grandparents up to the bima.

All grandparents recite:
A Grandparent’s Prayer By Ruth Heiges
B’ru’chah At Yah, Elohenu Ru’ach Ha’olam, asher mag’shi­mah et div’rei ha’mish’orer: “u’ri’eh vanim livanecha.”
Blessed are You, Our God, Spirit of the Universe, Who fulfills the words of the Psalmist: “And may you live to see your chil­dren’s children” [Psalm 128].

All the grandparents recite this pledge:

I pledge to reaffirm my Jewish identity; to study, to pray and to do deeds of righteous social action;
and to thank God for the blessing of grandchildren.
I pledge to teach Judaism to my grandchild by being an exam­ple of Jewish ethics and spirituality.

Rabbi recites the priestly blessing.

Everyone recites the Shehehiyanu blessing:
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheynu Melech ha’olam sh’hecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.
You are Blessed, Our God, Spirit of the World, who keeps us in life, who sustains us and who enables us to reach this season.

High School Graduation

A ritual for high school students and their parents.

Rabbi calls all parents of graduates up to the bima with their graduate. They stand together as families on one side of the bima.

We recognize the transition of _______ (each parent or pair of parents announces the full name of their graduating child).

Parents walk to the far side of the bima, leaving their graduate after saying their name.

The graduates all say together:
We recognize that this is a transition…
from being a teen to being a young adult,
from dependence to independence,
from our home and this synagogue to new adventures.

Like Adonai Tzva’ot, the God of Hosts, who came to Jacob in dreams when he left his parents’ home to find a new life for himself may Elohei Ya’akov, the God of Jacob, be with you as you find your new life.

Cantor sings, facing the graduates:
“May You Live to See Your World Fulfilled”
(Melody by Benji-Ellen Schiller, based on Talmud Berachot 17a. Translation by Lawrence Kushner.)
May you live to see your world fulfilled,
May your destiny be for worlds still to come,
May you trust in generations past and yet to be.
May your heart be filled with intuition and your words be filled with insight.
May songs of praise ever be upon your tongue and your vision be on a straight path before you.
May your eyes shine with the light of holy words and your face reflect the brightness of the heavens.
May your lips ever speak wisdom and your fulfillment be in righteousness even as you ever yearn to hear the words of the Holy Ancient One of Old.

Graduates say:
May it be Your will, O God, and God of our ancestors, to direct our steps and guide our life toward success in learning, in repairing Your world and in finding Your spark within us always.

Rabbi blesses the graduates with the priestly blessing.

Cantor leads congregation in singing Shechecheyanu prayer:
Baruch Atah Aonai Eloheynu Melech ha’olam sh’hecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.
You are Blessed, Our God, Spirit of the World, who keeps us in life, who sustains us and who enables us to reach this season.