Tkhines (תחנות Yiddish [tˈxɪnəs] for "prayers" or "supplications", from Hebrew תְּחִנּוֹת təħinnōth) were Yiddish-language prayer books, first compiled in the 17th century, for use by Ashkenazic Jewish women who, unlike the men of the time, typically could not read Hebrew, the language of the established synagogue prayer book. [Liptzin, 1972, 15]
The earliest known, and most widespread, book of Tkhines was the "Seyder Tkhines" (Sequence of Supplications), which first appeared in print in Amsterdam in 1648. It is a landmark in the history of women. It was a new standard prayerbook in Yiddish for women, composed in the voice of a female worshipper, which was prolifically printed and widely circulated across Europe by a dynamic, pan-European Yiddish printing industry. Women were not only the major readership of this industry, but they were also involved in both the creative and practical processes of publishing. They became printers, translators, editors, adaptors of existing literary works, copyists and even typesetters, and at the height of their prestige, women composed new prayers, sermons, and religious songs for both men and women. Although related prayer literature of the day, including other shorter prayer booklets entitled "Tkhines" and "Lider" (Songs) were often written by women, the "Seyder Tkhines" is anonymous and may well have been written by a man. It contained daily and festival prayers as well as occasional prayers specifically for women's religious obligations that were not provided by the standard synagogue prayerbook.
"Seyder Tkhines represents an age when Kabbalah pervaded mainstream Judaism and Jews believed themselves to be on the verge of messianic redemption that called for spiritual regeneration, heartfelt prayer, and repentance, by the entire community - women as well as men. The year of its publication was a year in which the arrival of the Messiah was expected. By the middle of the 18th century, with the onset of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), Yiddish became unfashionable in western Europe, mysticism was rejected by mainstream Judaism in an Age of Reason, and tkhines ceased to have an essential role in the prayer life of the Jewish community." [Kay, 2004].
From the middle of the 18th century, an expanded and revised collection entitled "Seyder Tkhines u-bakoshes" was printed. Tkhines for domestic chores and subjects, such as asking for the safe return of a husband from a journey, were added. Collections of Yiddish Tkhines are still printed today for women in the orthodox Hassidic community, many of whom retain Yiddish as their everyday language. This community is based in mysticism and retains the expectation of the imminent coming of the Messiah.
- Liptzin, Sol, A History of Yiddish Literature, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, NY, 1972, ISBN 0-8246-0124-6.
- Kay, Devra, Seyder Tkhines: The Forgotten Book of Common Prayer for Jewish Women, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, US, 2004, ISBN 0-8276-0773-3.
- Weissler, Chava, "Voices of the Matriarchs. Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women," Beacon Press, Boston 1998