Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rituals for Contemporary Life

My friend Ari Johnson is fond of saying that his favorite thing about Judaism is the way it transforms the mundane into holy. Judaisms, at their best, have a brilliant focus on the things we do as we go through the moments of our lives and making them meaningful through their acknowledgment.

Over time new rituals have evolved as the moments in our lives in need have marking have changed. A Bar Mitzvah ritual is first recorded in Verona, Italy close to 1,000 years ago. The first Bat Mitzvah ceremony took place in 1922 as first-wave feminism gained strength and began to broaden beyond fighting de jure discrimination. [self-indulgent side note: i was lucky to have known Judith Kaplan Eisenstein z”l.]

This past weekend, following the wedding of the Ruby-K and General Anna, I had a discussion with the super-secret-identity-having Rooftopper Rav. We chatted about major moments today that don’t have good Jewish rituals (that we know of) to accompany them.

Here are a few examples:

  • moving in with a partner to whom you are not married. [to some extent the marriage process acts as a ritual in the case where you move in together post-huppah.]
  • separating from a partner to whom you were never married.
  • substantially changing diet (becoming/ceasing to be, kosher-keeping, veg, vegan, etc)
  • Accepting a new job.
  • Graduating from university, trade school, etc.

In most cases we lack a good ritual because the lifestage is rather new (as with getting a driver’s license), has an accompanying taboo which is decreasing (moving in with a partner w/o getting hitched), or has increased in frequency (diet changes, job changes, graduation, etc). These are all times when we would be well served to have a good marker.

Either there aren’t too many folks coming up with innovative solutions, they aren’t getting the word out, or i am out of the loop. These are all strong possibilities.

That said, there are some folks doing good work. I ran across Ritualwell.org which has some interesting stuff, including this page on getting a drivers license, which i initially put on my list of occasions without a ritual. Kudos to them.

What occasions should we have rituals for?
Who is doing good work out there to create rituals?

(X-Posted at Jewschool)


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