Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer and Marjie Sokoll
As we move through the Hebrew month of Elul, Jewish tradition has incorporated the sounding of the shofar each day leading up to the High Holy Days except for Shabbat. The sounding of the shofar is a call to wake us up. As we approach Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this meaningful ritual is a reminder to wake us to the needs of many Jewish survivors of domestic abuse. During this time of year, we also have another beautiful ritual: reciting Psalm 27 every day.
This powerful psalm – which speaks of seeking G-d's protection in the face of evil and destruction – can be incredibly meaningful to people who are in need of help and support. For survivors of dating or domestic abuse, the approaching army and impending danger in the psalm may represent the person who has promised to love and cherish them. However, this may be the person intent on destroying their physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual well-being. Often isolated, frightened, and desperately alone, many turn to G-d in prayer.
In Psalm 27, the psalmist asks G-d "to show G-d's face". In reciting the psalm, many abuse survivors may be hoping and praying that their voices will be heard, their faces seen, and their sense of safety and wholeness restored. However, they may also be hoping to connect with people in their own communities who care.
As a community, we have a profound obligation to respond – to show our faces to those who seek our help and support.
One simple but significant way to reach out is to include survivors of abuse in our prayers, either throughout the year or specifically during the month of Elul and the upcoming holidays. The Misheberach is a healing prayer, and below are some beautiful adaptations to address healing for survivors of abuse. Acknowledging those who have survived abuse is critical, because it validates their experience and lets them know they can reach out to others. You can find examples of such prayers at Jewish Women International's website.
- A Misheberach for families that have experienced abuse
- Rabbi Mark Dratch's Misheberach for survivors of all kinds of abuse
- A version of Sh'ma Kolenu and the Hashkiveynu prayers specifically for abuse survivors, as well as Yom Kippur and Sukkot prayers for shalom bayit.