The High Holidays are over and the year has begun–in earnest. The pace of life has returned and “routine” has ben re-established. Yet, for most of us the routine is that there is no routine.
Life has a way of engaging us in new challenges. In recent years there has been a return to ritual as a means of navigating the challenges and changes that occur in what seems like increasing frequency. Baby boomers have been a leader in this change as we seek to find some sense of meaning as our new life stage evolves. I have been struck in my work in recent years, by the desire for and creativity in new rituals. Sometimes life hands us challenges that are very difficult. In those instances we often seek some way to ritualize a transition, a we hope to transition from one part of our life to another. A colleague has created a ritual that allows for us to move from a serious life challenge back to the rest of life. It is a ritual designed to be said by a person and their rabbi. It begins with the rabbi reading: Life takes unpredictable twists and turns. Some of these unanticipated events yield joy, learning, and satisfaction, while others yield hurt, embarrassment, and existential crises. We can never fully know how we will react to any given situation. and our Jewish tradition is rich enough to offer insight and wisdom throughout our lives.”
The participant then reads: “Past events dictated that my life changed. These changes, while beyond my control, have taught me that I must mourn the loss of my self in some way. At present, I must look within to redefine myself, and for the future move forward from these difficulties to embrace a full life. I know this is not an easy task, but one that needs to be addressed for my health and well being.”
The ritual then moves on with a moment of personal reflection, prayers and blessings that speak to the theme of moving on in life. Rabbi Geri Newburge, who created this “Ritual of Release” hopes that this “will provide a comforting Jewish ceremony or service for emotional and sacred healing”.
This is one example of the desire on the part of much of contemporary Judaism to place life experiences within the boundaries of ritual expression.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.