Blessings for Gender Transitions

“Ha’Ma’avir” — sharing the root of the word Ivrim (Hebrews). Jews are Ivrim — the “crossing over” people — because we “crossed over” the Jordan River into Canaan to escape our oppression in Egypt, and we spiritually “transformed” ourselves. (In Modern Hebrew, this verb root is used to form the word “ma’avar,” which means among other things to “transition genders.”)

The second blessing is adapted from liberal morning liturgy. The Midrash (classical Jewish exegesis) says that the first human being was an androgynos, an intersex person — implying that all bodies and genders are created in God’s image — whether we are male, female, transgender, intersex or something else. When we take steps, physically or spiritually, to more fully manifest our gender identities, we are fulfilling the commandment “to partner with God in completing the work of creation.”

The final blessing is the traditional “Shehechiyanu” prayer, recited when we experience something new or reach a milestone. Saying this prayer at moments of transition celebrates God’s nurturing and sustaining presence in allowing us to reach this point of self-transformation. This blessing is in the plural (“us” instead of “me”) and it also expresses the hope that we are collectively transitioning as a people: to honor and celebrate the lives of people of all genders. 

Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla is the rabbi of the Danforth Jewish Circle in Toronto. Elliot’s writing on gender appears in Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice (Jewish Lights, 2007) and Kulanu: All of Us (Union for Reform Judaism Press, 2007).