By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Techines (not to be confused with techinah, the crushed sesame-seed paste that is often eaten with hummus, which is spelt with a tet, not a tav) constituted a revolution in Jewish womens spirituality.

From the 16th century until our great- grandmothers generation, Jewish women would pour out their prayers and find consolation through the techines collected in immensely popular books.

Originally techines were Yiddish translations of the Tachanun prayers (meaning supplications for grace, from the word chen), and other excerpts from the siddur. They were produced to remedy a serious gap in the religious lives of women, who generally didnt know Hebrew and so couldnt recite the set prayers with understanding.

Gradually the form was developed and embellished. One theory is that the first original techines were created by the firzogerins, learned women who translated prayers into Yiddish for the benefit of the less educated women in the community. Through their creative translations, new techines were born.

Throughout centuries of crisis and persecution among Eastern European Jews, the personal, heartfelt tone and the homely domestic content of the techines spoke to the day-to-day spiritual needs of generations of Jewish women.

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Last updated: 12:31pm, March 6 2009