A Prayer for Cutting One’s Hair for Chemo

Rabbi Paul Kipnes
A razor

Oseh Hashalom, Source of Shalom
Who created us and sustains us,
Who has no look, no style, no Hair.
But Who is everywhere
Please be right Here.

You, about whom we sing—
V’hu haya, v’hu hoveh, v’hu y’hiyeh b’tifarah
God was, God is, God will be, in glorious splendor —
Help us remember
That the splendor is in the
Journey —
A long, fascinating,
Creative, contentious,
Unpredictable, uncontrollable
Intangible and inspiring
Journey —
From what was and what is
To what will be.
From who we were and who we are
To who we will yet become.

And therefore,
Source of Strength,
Like You did for
Rachel who struggled, and
Hannah who struggled,
Like for Miriam who wandered,
And Hagar who wondered,
Remind us —
As we wonder about the path
As we cut the hair from on top of her
Head —
That like You,
Whose essence is Existence,
Our existence is our essence.

Not our clothes, which we have to spare,
Not our weight, our height or glorious Hair.

It’s what’s in Here (<3) that’s abiding
And lovely and loveable
And that won’t be subsiding

And so
With that knowledge,
Grant us Faith
To hold on
And to let go,
To shed tears
To assuage our fears
And to know

That this hair cutting is merely a separation
Hamavdil bein kodesh… l’kodesh
(Who separates Holy from Holy)
From one sacred moment of the journey
Toward the next (sacred moment).
A Journey
Of holiness
Toward wholeness
That we take with You (with all of you)
and never alone.

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Hamavdil bein kodesh l’kodesh.
Blessed are You
Who separates one kind of Holiness
From the next (kind of Holiness).

And we say:


  • Shalom means peace, wholeness and completion. It is said that when one puts in the last piece of a puzzle, one may say shalem (complete). Allow us to help fill you up when the chemo rips you apart.
  • In “Adon Olam,” we sing v’hu haya v’hu hoveh v’hu y’hiyeh b’tifarah. It also expresses the idea that God’s essence is connected to three verbs – was, is, will be – God is… existence. Our task perhaps is to plug into existence.
  • Our matriarchs Rachel, Hannah, Miriam and Hagar were strong biblical women who struggled – found strength, solace, and faith – and wandered forward to find blessing and hope. May you be like them.
  • At the end of Havdalah (the ceremony to end Shabbat), we praise the One who separates kodesh (holiness) from chol (regular or profane). But isn’t every moment potentially Holy? I always thought we should say hamavdil bein kodesh l’kodesh (who separates one kind of Holiness from the next).
  • Finally, a peculiarity of having the vestiges of an accent from Worcester, MA, is that the words “hair” and “here” sound pretty much the same.

This prayer/blessing/spoken word rap was written for Lindy, with love, from Rabbi Paul Kipnes.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes the spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA. He serves as rabbinic dean at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA, and as vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Kipnes and his wife Michelle November co-wrote Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness(Jewish Lights). He also co-edited a national CCAR Journal issue on New Visions for Jewish Community. Under his leadership, Congregation Or Ami has won national awards for social justice programming, for innovative worship programming, for outreach to interfaith families, and for engaging family education, and for best overall use of technology in a synagogue. Or Ami also wins the hearts of its families for its Henaynu caring community, which reaches out during times of need. He serves on the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education clinical faculty at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. His writings can be viewed on his blog, Or Am I? He tweets @RabbiKip.

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