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Elul Blessings

What you have before you is a treasure trove of traditonal Eastern European ancestral practices. 

Whether or not your ancestors were Ashkenazi, this booklet lays the groundwork for some possible ways to connect with them—primarily through the spontaneous prayers known as tkhines. In the month before Rosh Hashanah, it's traditional to visit the burial sites of our ancestors, where Eastern European women used to measure the graves with thread to create candles on Yom Kippur.

Those of us today without access to our ancestral graves have the option, as described in this booklet, of measuring other ancestral objects and pouring the energy of our tkhines into that thread. 

May these practices bring you closer to the ancestral connection you long for. 

Elul Blessings
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About Tkhines: Tkhines are prayers written in Yiddish for those who didn't read or understand Hebrew. The majority of tkhines were written for women, for domestic rather than synagogue use. Some tkhines were also written by women, but since many writers of prayers would use pen names it is hard to tell how many.

About Feldmesterins: 

For centuries, Jewish women in Eastern Europe measured cemeteries and graves with thread. They used the threads to make special neshome likht [soul candles], or in some cases, protection bands worn around the wrists, ankles, or neck. Often carried out by experienced women known as feldmesterins, who were also often paid for their work, feldmestn [cemetery measuring] and kneytlekh leygn [laying wicks] were most commonly performed during Elul, to make soul candles for Yom Kippur. Yet they also turned to the practice at other times when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead seemed to be thinning. Even today, with all of our science, all of our knowledge, ritual technology still anchors us in times of vulnerability.

Elul Blessings
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A tkhine (prayer) for kneytlekh leygn (making Yom Kippur candles)

About this graphic: This PDF is a sample page from a tekhines prayer book, Shloshe Shiurim, by Sura Bas Toivim, in which this tekhines features. 

Elul Blessings
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The text below is an extract from Mendele Moykher Sforim's 'Shloyme Reb Khayims.' which features a beautiful version of the tkhine for making Yom Kippur candles. This was a common tkhine which accompanied this ritual on Erev Yom Kippur. This text was translated by Annabel Cohen. To learn more about tkhines and soul candles, visit her blog at:

Raboyne ShelOylem {Master of the Universe} - merciful God! The candles which we will install in shul, for the sake of your Holy Name and the holy, pure souls, shall rouse the Oves and Imoes - {Fathers and Mothers} – that they should from their graves entreat on our behalf, that no evil, no troubles, no suffering should come to us, and our light, and our husbands’ light, and our children’s light shall not be extinguished before the time comes, God Forbid …

I will place the thread for our father Abraham, who you rescued from the fire in the lime-kiln, that you might also purify us from sin in this way, that our souls might come to you free of guilt, pure as they first entered our bodies.

By the virtue by which I place this thread for our mother, Sarah, should God blessed-be He, remember the virtue of her grief when her beloved son Yitskhok was led to be sacrificed. Let her be a good advocate, that our own children should not be captured from our homes, they should not be taken away from us and not carried off far from us like stray sheep.

By the virtue by which we place this thread for our father Yitskhok, may you take pity on us that we should bring up our children and be able to send them to learn with a rebbe, that like the candles our children’s eyes may light up in learning the beloved Torah

For the thread which we place for our father Yankev, who you saved from his enemies, standing by him in his times of need, so may you save us from all destroyers and accusers that they should not be able to slander us with wrongdoings or fabricate defamation to darken our name. May we on the Day of Reckoning receive a good judgment along with our husbands and children, may we God forbid not be made widows and our children not orphans

By the virtue of Shloyme who built the temple in Jerusalem and prayed that even when a non-Jew, a stranger from another nation, should come into to the temple and entreat you, that his prayers should also be accepted – by this virtue, Master of the Universe, may the gates of heaven not be locked before my prayer, and let me be mentioned favorably with my husband and with my children and with all good people in the New Year. Amen!"

Elul Blessings
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If you are new to the practice of measuring graves and making candles, see the clip Yom Kippur Candles, Tkhines, And Feldmesterins

If you aren't near a cemetery or the burial place of your ancestors, you might choose to take some wicks and measure an object that belonged to a relative or someone else dear to you whose soul has ascended. 


- Thin rope or wicks

- One or more objects to measure connected to that ancestor (such as candle sticks, picture frame, furniture, etc)

Spontaneous prayer before measuring: 
Here you have an opportunity to write a tkhine, or prayer, in the language of your choice. While some of us may know that tkhines were traditionally Yiddish prayers, this was the common language because it was the vernacular. A helpful way to start is to use one of these prompts compiled by Rabbi Noam Lerman who wrote their thesis on tekhines (links to these resources can be found in the References for Soul Candlemaking clip): 

     I implore/ ask/ entreat/ beg/ plead/request..

     Listen, Lord, beloved G-d..

     Merciful father (mother), merciful father (mother)..

     May it be Your will as I am before you, May it be Your will as I am before you G-d, my G-d, and G-d of my ancestors..

After measuring: hold onto the wicks until after Rosh Hashana. Before Yom Kippur, make them into candles or tie them as a bracelet (protection band). As you do this, you can return to spontaneous prayer and direct your tkhines into what you are making. 

Elul Blessings

To access the full Yiddish version of the text translated here, visit this page and enter page 74 of the PDF, which is page 36 of the scanned book. 

Prompts for Spontaneous Prayer Before Measuring as described in the clip Using Wicks to Measure Ancestral Objects can be found here, compiled by Rabbi Noam Lerman who wrote their thesis on tkhines. 

See Tkhine for Candlemaking on Erev Yom Kippur for additional suggestions of what to say and sing while making candles.