Judaism offers prayers to say for every occasion.

But a few prayers said by women offer a distinct path to communicate with the Divine. Here are seven amazing prayers that can help women ascend to new heights in self-awareness and help us forge an even stronger connection with G‑d.

Made According to G‑d’s Will

Birkat Hashachar, or the “Morning Blessings,” are a series of short prayers typically said each morning upon arising, thanking G‑d for allowing us to wake up and greet a new day.

Tucked into these many special blessings, Jewish women1 utter a beautiful prayer: Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the Universe, for having made me according to His will. It’s an expression of utter trust in the Almighty, who created women as “the Crown of Creation.”

In Judaism, women are seen as endowed with innate spirituality. Whereas men require an extensive network of mitzvot and religious obligations in order to feel close to G‑d, women need no such external props. It is our nature to be nurturing and spiritual, which are the highest qualities in Jewish thought. Thus, instead of thanking G‑d for giving us tools to access higher spirituality, this prayer allows us to pause for a moment and thank G‑d for something even greater: for endowing us with an innate sense of holiness. This blessing also reminds us to use this G‑d-given quality to grow and nurture others throughout our day.

Ushering in Shabbat With Prayer

Art by Yoram Raanan
Art by Yoram Raanan

My favorite moment of the week comes a few moments before Shabbat begins on Friday afternoon. Like most Jewish homes, the business of the workweek is nonstop; on Friday, that pace only intensifies. Finally, my daughter and I gather in the dining room, ready to usher in Shabbat with our prayers.2

First, we drop money into the tzedakah box near our Shabbat lights; this helps elevate us and remind us of the loving, giving people we hope to be. Lighting the Shabbat candles, we close our eyes and wave the light towards us, symbolically bringing the sanctity of the Day of Rest closer. Then, with our eyes still covered, we carefully pronounce the timeless blessing: Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the light of the Sabbath.

Afterwards, while we’re still immersed in the holiness of the moment, we say additional prayers. We ask for a complete recovery for sick people in our community; we pray for the welfare of others; and we ask G‑d to bless our home and our loved ones. In these precious moments, I reflect on the generations of women who have prayed such words and lit these Shabbat candles before me, going back thousands of years to our matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

Baking Challah With Prayer

Art by Raiza Malka Gilbert
Art by Raiza Malka Gilbert

While not every Jewish woman bakes fresh challah each week, making challah from scratch is a soothing, beautiful way to connect with generations of women who came before us, all working to make their families’ Shabbats meaningful and complete.

Making challah is also a chance to infuse our bread with prayer. Many women say blessings as they mix the ingredients together, pouring out their hearts to G‑d, making requests or reciting Psalms. In my own home, mixing yeast and water with flour, eggs, oil, sugar and salt is my time to speak with the Almighty, asking that my whole family enjoy a peaceful Shabbat.

We also gain an additional opportunity—the beautiful mitzvah to make a blessing over separating challah.3 Just as in other areas of our lives, when we are not free to use all that we’re given by the Divine, but are commanded to share it and help others, so, too, with our challah: a small portion of it is reserved for other use. In the days of the Temple, this portion would have been given to the Kohens who worked in the Temple; today, the portion we separate is burned.

After mixing all the ingredients together in a dough, we say the blessing Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah. We then separate a small piece of dough.

Wishing Farewell to Shabbat

Art by Sarah Chaya Elisha
Art by Sarah Chaya Elisha

In some households, a special prayer is said just as Shabbat is leaving, right before the Havdalahceremony marking the end of the weekly holiday. Just as women bring Shabbat into the Jewish home, some women4 have the custom of saying this prayer as Shabbat leaves.

The prayer is written in Yiddish, the traditional language of Eastern European Jews. As I recite its beautiful words, praying “that the coming week may arrive to bring perfect faith . . . love of and attachment to good friends, attachment to (our) Creator” and other blessings, I feel that I am part of a chain of Jewish women going back countless generations, all wishing for peace and love and good things for their families and their communities.

I conclude with the timeless wish: “May this week arrive for kindness, for good fortune, for blessing, for success, for good health, for wealth and honor, and for children, life and sustenance, for us and for all Israel. Amen.” I feel energized, ready and hopeful to face the new week.

Bedtime Ritual

In many homes, it is the women who most often tuck their children into bed at night. This gives us a lovely chance to say a central prayer with our kids, the Shema, which has connected countless generations of Jews with the Divine: Hear O Israel, G‑d is our L‑rd, the One and Only. It’s a powerful lesson to share with our children; at the end of the day, it is G‑d who is our most constant companion and aide in life.

Not too long ago, the power of reciting these timeless words with our children saved Jewish children from growing up in Catholic orphanages and allowed them to connect with their Jewish community again. At the close of World War II, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman traveled to Europe looking for Jewish children whose desperate parents had entrusted them to convents and Catholic orphanages. Priests and nuns shielded these children and saved their lives, but at the cost of their Jewish identity; when the rabbi asked if there were any Jewish children in their institutions, they insisted there were not. Instead of leaving, Rabbi Kahaneman famously would begin reciting Shema Yisrael. In each place, Jewish children would remember how their parents used to tuck them in at night, saying those words. “Mama, mama!” Jewish children would cry out, remembering their mothers tenderly tucking them into bed and whispering this timeless Jewish declaration together with them.

Thinking of Others at Life’s Important Moments

“Chassidic Wedding” by Alyse Radenovic
“Chassidic Wedding” by Alyse Radenovic

It’s a beautiful custom in Judaism that at some of life’s most important moments, we think of others. We Jewish women recognize that we are in heightened spiritual moments, and so we pray. We pray for ourselves, for our future happiness and for others.

Many Jewish brides-to-be collect the names of friends and others who need a blessing, and in the holy moments before they stand under the chuppah, use that intensely spiritual time to pray for health, for healing and for others to find their mates soon as well.

During labor, some women will pray for themselves, their babies, their families and others.

Immersing in the Ritual Bath

Each month, it is traditional for Jewish women to visit a mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath, a week after the conclusion of her last menstrual period. The prayers we recite in the midst of the mikvah are unique. We are at our most in tune with the natural world in this setting, surrounded by “living waters”—waters nourished in nature by rain—and remind us that everything we have comes directly from the Divine. We immerse ourselves in the waters of the mikvah, then recite the blessing Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who Has Commanded us to Immerse (in the mikvah). Then twice more we immerse ourselves in its pure waters.

Afterwards, while we are still standing in the mikvah’s warm waters, it’s customary to take a moment to commune privately with G‑d, asking the Divine to bless us, our families and to honor any personal requests we’d like to make. It’s an intensely holy moment—an auspicious time to review our relationship with the Divine and to pray.

These are just a few of the special moments that Jewish women have historically used to reach out beyond the constraints of our everyday lives. They infuse our lives with holiness and bring ourselves, as well as our families and communities, a little closer to the Divine spark we all long for in our innermost souls.