Ritual helps us pay attention. From the joy of a recovery to the grief of a funeral, ritual helps us inhabit the breadth of human experience.
Recently, I led a Sunday morning brunch at Woodstock Jewish Congregation. The topic was creative ritual. We discussed the definition of ritual: is it habit or is it something greater? If it is something greater, what is the thing which expands it? We then browsed the Ritualwell website to A writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. a taste of the amazingly creative rituals which have already been created: we read rituals marking retirement, a big move, loss of a child, graduating from high school, as well as creative rituals based on traditional Jewish rituals, such as: weddings for those identified as LGBTQ, creative b’nei Lit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed.", and seders that incorporate modern themes such as racism and trafficking. This inspired us to think creatively about marking an upcoming moment in the Woodstock Jewish community.
Almost 13 years ago the Woodstock Jewish community entered the doors of their new building, marking an expansion and permanency to their Jewish presence in Woodstock. We decided to use the traditional ritual of marking a boy or girl’s 13th birthday and coming of age, and we began to craft a ritual celebrating the Coming of age, one responsible for the commandments. At the age of thirteen for a boy and twelve for a girl, s/he obtains the age of Jewish majority and is obligated to all the commandments. Usually celebrated with an aliyah to the Torah and other festivities. In many communities both bar and bat mitzvah are celebrated at age 13. The plural of bar mitzvah is b'nei mitzvah. The plural of bat mitzvah is b'not mitzvah. of the WJC building. The ritual would allow the community to reflect on its growth, challenges, and joy throughout the past 13 years while also recommitting to further growth, expansion, and maintenance of the current space and community. Therefore, with a little guidance and inspiration, the community would begin a process to mark its building’s 13th year.
I quickly learned that ritual encourages more ritual. A couple (the Mundis) that had attended the ritual workshop were struggling with leaving their home of 27 years behind and moving to a new home. The Mundis approached me, inspired by the creative ritual brunch, asking me to help them to create a meaningful ritual for this important transition in their lives. They needed guidance, tools, and support in order to craft a ritual that truly reflected their transition and all the fears, challenges, hopes, and dreams associated with it. Through my consultation with the Mundis, we crafted a ritual that was reflective of their experience. The ritual was not only a creative process but also helped them to move from a place of doubt and fear to excitement and confirmation.
Randy Mundi reflects: “My husband Andy and I were fortunate to attend the ritual workshop at WJC. Even though we didn’t know it at the time, creative visualization was at work. Kami was the perfect facilitator to assist us in our time of need. We were in the process of moving from a home we’ve lived in for 27 years. Although the new house had a lot of items on our bucket list, I, more so than my husband, was having a hard time letting go. All the reasons we shouldn’t be moving were coming up. I was experiencing stress, mood swings, and wasn’t sleeping well.
Kami became a tremendous support through her emails, patience and dedication. We created a ritual to say goodbye to our present home and welcome our new life in our new space. Our ritual included meditation, crafted moments of sharing hopes and dreams, culminating in affixing the mezuzot in our new home, amidst close friends. Through this ritual the process became exciting instead of stressful. We hope other people can experience the power of ritual by creating their own custom rituals with guides who can help tailor their ritual to their particular needs. We’d like to thank Ritualwell and Kami for assisting us.”
Ritual helps us pay attention. From the joy of a recovery to the grief of a funeral, ritual helps us inhabit the breadth of human experience. Ritual also connects us with others who join in our holy moment and together create a container for expression, connection, and acknowledgment. Ritual is powerful! When we engage in ritual, we leave the everyday and enter a space that touches and transforms us in profound, spiritual, and important ways.
Rabbi Kami Knapp is the rabbinic fellow at Ritualwell.