This Service is ©copyright 2005 by Judith Laura, except that other contributors of songs, poems and prayers retain all rights to their contributions. Permission is given for use of this Service in actual ritual/liturgy, but individual contributors retain all rights to their work, including print and electronic. If you wish to publish, print, or to display on the web this Service, or parts of this Service, or if you wish to use this Service or parts of this Service for any use other than actual ritual/liturgy, then you must obtain permission from the copyright holder(s). Please see the CREDITS for information on how to get in touch with the copyright holders of various parts of this work.
[In Goddess congregations in addition to the Torah scrolls, the Ark also contains either a symbol or a physical representation of Asherah, such as a pole, a tree branch (preferably female date palm), a representation of female date palm, or an Asherah statue. Whichever of these is used, before placing it in the Ark, it should be ritually purified and dedicated. Because there is ample evidence that the Torah scroll replaced the Goddess figure in the shrine-like ark, we are restoring Her to her appropriate place. Like the ancient Goddess representations, the Torah is crowned and robed in ritual splendor, paraded and venerated. It is therefore suggested that if a pole is used, it be decorated, and if a Goddess statue is used, that it be robed and crowned similarly to the Torah scrolls. Real trees and tree branches need no decoration. As with the Torah scroll, where veneration is not worship of the Torah itself, but rather giving honor to our people's law and history, so with the Asherah, we are not worshiping the statue itself but venerating what it represents. Our Torah service begins with saying:]
The Divine is in all creation and all created exists in the Divine. Goddess flows through all creation, from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy; from the single cell to the individual plant, animal, and human. She interweaves all created, all created interweave with her, and She is the interweaving of creation. She is with each of us and all of us. She has been with us from the beginning, in every age; She is with is now and will be with us in all eons to come.
Asherah has been our Goddess, is our Goddess, and will be our Goddess. Asherah is with us eternally. Asherah holds us close and gives us strength. Asherah blesses us with peace.
In ancient times, She was robed in splendor and sheltered in a shrine. So today she reclaims her place in the Ark. For She is Torah, just as the law and the stories of our people are Torah. Our Mother Sarah was her priestess. Our mothers Rachel and Leah, and their daughter, Dinah, protected her. Solomon worshiped her in the Temple and called her Wisdom. In our exile, she remained with us as Shekhinah. Our grandmothers and greatgrandmothers whispered her name in Yiddish and Ladino. She has also been called the Tree of Life, and as the Tree, the menorah is her symbol.
Mother of All Living, whose compassion knows no end, may your return to Zion heal our wounds, restore us, and bring balance to all creation. We place our faith in you, Great Goddess, who flows through all worlds.
[Ark is opened]
And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle; even the tent of testimony; and at evening it appeared as if fire was upon the tabernacle, until morning. (Numbers 9:15)
And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2: 4)
And now we understand that the cloud of the Tabernacle was the Shekhinah, the holy presence of the Divine, who dwelled with our ancestors in the desert and showed them the way to safety. May She dwell with us always, keeping us safe and leading us to peace.
May the Divine Presence open our eyes to see truth, open our ears to hear all that is said, open our minds to Wisdom, and open our hearts to love. May we find the sacred in the teachings of our ancestors and reveal what we find therein without fear. May the truth make us free and whole.
[The Torah Scroll and the Asherah are taken from the Ark]
[Optional: Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad
Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.]
Shema Yisrael: Asherah Elataynu, Asherah Shlemah.
Harken descendants of ancient tribes. She is Our Goddess, She is whole.
Shlemah Elataynu, gedulah Asherataynu, kedoshah shemah.
Our Goddess is whole, She is great, Her name is holy.
[Facing the ark, Torah scroll and Asherah are raised as the following is said:]
Together, let us glorify and exalt the Divine
[Those holding scroll and Asherah face congregation. All sing Ashrey Asherah. The first section of the song is sung while still on the bimah, the middle section repeats as as we proceed through the congregation, the last section is sung as the scroll and Asherah return to the bimah.
[Before the scroll is placed on the reading desk, the following is said:]
May the Source of mercy be merciful to us and be with us, as She was with our ancestors. May she sustain us in times of trouble, and help us to work for the greatest good for all. May She help us to replace prejudice with understanding, persecution with justice, and hatred with love. As she is merciful to us, may we show others mercy; as she sustains us, may we help others to endure. May we be interwoven with Her and with each other forever.
[Torah scroll is placed on reading desk. Asherah is placed either on same desk or on another table nearby. Torah scroll and Asherah are "undressed" and "dressed" at the same time.]
May all who seek refuge be protected and sheltered. As we declare it, so be it.
We proclaim the greatness of the Divine and we affirm that Shekhinah fills these teachings.
[Person's name] is called to read.
Beruchah shenatnah Torah l'amah Yisrael bikidushatah.
Blessed is the Source, who gives Torah to our people in holiness.
[Traditionally, 7 people are called for "aliyah," that is, to stand and on bimah and observe the reading.]
We are blessed to have lived to this day.
[All on the bimah recite the following:]
[before touching the Asherah:]
Baruchu et Asherah hamevorechet
Blessed is Asherah, the blessed one.
[before touching the Torah]:
Baruchu et Adonai hamvorach
Blessed is Adonai, the blessed one.
[the next two blessings remain in the masculine and are recited in Hebrew only]
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam asher bachar banu mikol ha'amim venatan lanu et Torato. Baruch ata Adonai noten haTorah.
[The Torah portion is read]
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam, asher natan lanu Torat emet vechayay olam nata betocheinu. Baruch ata Adonai noten haTorah.
[Four persons are called to the bimah. Two will raised the Torah and the Asherah and the others will dress them]
[The Asherah is raised:]
This is the Asherah whom our ancestors worshiped, who was banished by those who feared women, who survived as Wisdom and Shekhinah.
[The scroll is raised:]
This is the Torah that Moses received in the cloud of the Shekhinah and gave to the children of Israel.
And so it continued: the cloud covered it, and the appearance by fire at night (Numbers 9:16)
[The Torah scroll and Asherah are "dressed." The Ark remains open, and the Torah and Asherah are held by persons seated during the Haftarah that follows. Before proceeding with the Haftarah, the leader asks for announcements of deaths, marriages, births and requests for prayers for healing. Prayers and blessings are said according to what is needed and the group's custom.]
Blessed are you, the Divine, who is eternal. We give thanks for the prophets, women and men, whose words you inspire. They speak truth, even in the face of oppression. They bring your teachings into the world.
[Haftarah is read. Some groups may substitute or add after the Biblical prophets, readings from recent writings about the portrayal of women and/or the female divine in the Scriptures which serve as contemporary prophecy.]
Blessed are you, the Divine, who is eternal. You flow through all worlds and speak through those who seek you in every age. Goddess of Faith, who helps us replace fear with faith, you come when we call, you fulfill what we speak, all your words are true and just. Faithful are you, Asherah, our Goddess, and every word you speak through us is fulfilled, for you are our Mother, faithful and merciful, Asherah, Our Goddess, whose every word is true.
We thank you, Goddess, for returning to us through the dreams and words of prophets in our own time. You bring with you the promise of balance and reunion. As has been promised: the female and male aspects of the divine shall be reunited in perfection and harmony, and the age of bliss and perfection shall be born.
Beruchah at Asherah haganat Sarah.
Beruch ata Adonai, magein David
Blessed is Asherah, Protector of Sarah.
Blessed is Adonai, Shield of David.
We thank and bless the Divine for Torah, for this service, for the prophets, and for this day of rest.
Beruchah at Kedoshah mekadeshet haShabbat.
Blessed is Holy One, who hallows the Sabbath.
Prayer for Scholars and Community Supporters
May those who teach and support us on Earth be blessed on Earth with good health, long life, plentiful food and shelter, abundant gifts, radiant vision, and lively and honest descendants who carry on with distinction what they have begun. And may our supporters and teachers be blessed in all worlds with grace, loving kindness, honor and mercy.
May the Mother of All bless you, fill your lives with the joy of learning and the joy of loving, enable you to live long enough to accomplish your goals, grant you long and healthy life, protect you and rescue you from all peril and disease. May the Goddess be your guide and protector at every time and every season. As we declare it, so be it.
Prayer for the Congregation
May She who blessed our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless this holy congregation and all holy congregations. May we receive this blessing and may it extend to our children and all that is theirs. May this blessing be to all who dedicate this sanctuary and to those who enter this sanctuary to pray, and to all those who donate material goods and non-material gifts, and who give charity to the poor, and to all those who work for the needs of the community. May the Holy One bless them and reward them with success and remove from them all disease, and grant them peace. As we declare it, so be it.
[On the Saturday before the new moon (Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh), those holding the Asherah and the Torah stand and face the congregation and the following is said:
May She Who is Our Goddess renew us for the coming month for goodness and blessing. Grant us a long life, a healthy life, a life of peace, a life of freedom, a life of equality, a life of abundance, a life of blessing, a life of goodness, a life of grace, a life of honor, a life of fulfillment, a life of love of learning, a life of love of the divine, and a life of love of one another. As we declare it, so be it.
The new moon, the month of _____, is on (date) and may it come to us and all people for good!
May the Holy One bring us renewal with the new month and may it be a time of life and peace–so be it– of joy and happiness–so be it–of safety and comfort–so be it. As we declare it, so be it.]
[At all times, we continue as we begin to return the Torah and Asherah to the Ark.]
[We rise as, also rising, the person holding the Torah scroll holds it in the right arm and the person holding the Asherah holds it in the left hand or arm.]
Hallelujah. Let us hail the Holy Name and exalt the Divine, in which we are exalted.
[Those carrying the scroll and the Asherah begin going toward the ark as we say:]
The glory of the Goddess flows through earth and sky, and we sense the Divine Presence in all that is. She will always be with us, and us with her. Hallelujah.
[The major key verse of Ashrey Asherah is sung as Torah and Asherah are returned to the Ark.]
And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped. (Numbers 9:17)
She is a Tree of Life to whose who grasp her, and happy are those who keep her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all Her paths are peace. (Proverbs 3: 17 &16)
Derecheha darchei noam, vekhol netivoteha shalom.
(The Ark is closed.)
[Commentary and interpretation of Torah and Haftarah portions should include uncovering Goddess symbolism, and comments upon any misogynist or violent passages.]