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Ritual Redux

03/30/2021 07:07:09 PM


Chevre (Friends),

I hope everyone is enjoying these middle days of Pesach (Passover). When I was growing up, I spent Passover at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Far Rockaway, Queens (NY). It was fascinating to participate in the household preparations: clearing the house of chametz (bread and any other non-kosher for Passover items). Searching for the last remains of any crumbs, with a candle and a feather! And, the cooking! My aunt was a wonderful cook and she made her chopped liver from scratch. She baked wonderful kosher for Passover cakes, and prepared fabulous matzah ball chicken soup.For most of my younger years, we did not go through the same type of preparations at home, so staying at my Aunt and Uncle's home for the whole holiday, was quite an education.

But, we didn't go to services at the synagogue. That wasn't part of their ritual observance of the holiday. It wasn't until I was a young adult that I even learned that the first two days of Passover (beginning the night before, with the first seder), were holy days, when, if one follows Jewish law, one would not be working or shopping, or doing other things generally prohibited on Shabbat and holidays.  The "middle days" of the holiday are kind of back to normal, all while observing the dietary restrictions of eating only Kosher for Passover foods. And, the last two days of Passover (this week, they start Friday night and end Sunday evening), are also holy days, with restrictions. Tacked on to the last day of Passover (in Conservative Judaism, the 8th day, in Reform and some Reconstructionist observance, the 7th day), is often a Yizkor service, a custom that became ritualized, in which we remember our relatives and/or loved ones who have passed.

The PEW study of 2013 revealed a great deal about the changing landscape of American Judaism. But, one of the most interesting statistics it cited, was that 70% of American Jews, including many who identified as non-religious, cultural Jews, attended a Passover seder in the prior year. For many of us, attending a seder is the full extent of our Passover observance. This year. some of us learned how to prepare that favorite dish that your habitual host would have prepared. Staying at home because of the pandemic has brought us back to being the guardians of our Jewish ritual practice. The desire to keep the ritual alive has fueled the dazzling self-education of many parents, which is the strongest way to teach our children. And, many adult children have taken on the task of Shabbat home ritual and Passover seder hosting, so that their senior parents could sit as guests and kvel, either in-person, or virtually.

So, here's to YOU! You domestic arbiters of Jewish ritual! I salute you and I encourage you to keep learning, keep doing, keep trying, and keep developing your ritual skills. Create new rituals. Develop new family customs! That is the secret of how the Jewish people continue to exist from one generation to the next. (L'dor vaDor).

Chag Pesach sameach! Happy Passover!


Wed, October 20 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782