President’s August 2020 Column

To me the notion of rituals has become a repeating theme to ponder and occasionally practice. As today, due to COVID, when we have moved most ritual to the virtual. And while we plan how we can take advantage of the outdoors and fuse ritual with nature, and adequate distance with community.

I have attended too many funerals online. Even then, in the presence of the stamp view of friends and strangers, even there on screen, the familiar words and rituals seems to transcend, if only for that transient while. 

The fullness of Jewish rituals is not limited to formal ceremony, but found in the food, the sounds, even in the different candles we may light from Shabbat, Havdalah, Hanukkah, or a Yahrzeit. Its like there is an entire Jewish industry dedicated to molding paraffin. Ritual objects can probably be found in your home, a Menorah or Kiddush cup. Such small items can have immense meaning especially if passed down or given to you by someone special. 

In Hebrew the word for ritual פּוּלחָן can also take on a meaning as cult. Is it possible that one could place too much importance in an object or ritual as to possess magical power? Like all wondrous notions even the idea of ritual there is a side that can also go too far.

Jewish identity relies largely on religious practices. Rituals mark the important stages in a Jewish life, and Jews celebrate many festivals throughout the year to remember important events in Jewish history. At Temple Judah our desire is to again meet for rituals, but our over-arching ethic and health concern is adamant that we are not there yet. 

Again, I want to thank the board, Carolyn and the Rabbi for being flexible and helping enable Jewish ritual to be a constant light glowing in our community.

Robert Becker