Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar and philosopher, taught that we have a sacred obligation to visit the sick, bury the dead, and celebrate with the bride and groom (Maimonides, Hilchot Avel 14:1). Caring for the life cycle needs of our friends, family, and neighbors is an integral part of our lives as Jews. Contemporary lifestyles both invite and challenge us to do this. Our families are often scattered and our time is frequently tight. But moments of transition call out for ritual. They beckon us to stop and commemorate the beauty and fragility of life. In the 21st century, we have the opportunity to mark moments that our ancestors did not recognize or understand, such as welcoming girls into the covenant; adult 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 gay and lesbian marriages and commitment ceremonies. Together, we can craft life cycle rituals that build on tradition and celebrate the vibrant Jewish present.
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