Early in my life, in fact very, I went through the ritual Brit Milah, the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. I know there have been the outcry of many groups about the mutilation, etc., blah blah blah. In religious terms, this signifies the covenant made between G-d and Abraham. At eight days old, I have no recollection of the event; feel no after effects and all functions as it was intended to. We are not the only group that goes through this ritual, there have been tribes throughout time and around the world that have this ritual, done at different points in the male life, with different meanings, and tied to different cultural stories. Why do I open with this ritual? As it ends up, most people know about ritual. If I were to talk about the ritual of washing one’s feet before entering a building, you might not be able to relate. Most importantly, the ritual is tied to a story we learn, has a meaning behind it and reminds us of who we are.
Aside from the circumcision, there are some rituals along the way of life. In 2017, I have begun to wonder if out of the rituals that are still practiced, do they have relevance to us, do they have meaning to my children, and what purpose do they fulfill. I understand that 2300+ years ago, a nomadic people develop the stories that helped to describe their lives and practices. The rituals pertained to those people at the time. In Judaism, the Torah provided the laws and base rituals. After the Diaspora, when the Jews became dispersed into the world, the “close knit” people could no longer rely on the leadership of the country / religion. A group of people got together to, for lack of a better word, design how the religion would carry on. New rituals, practices and understandings were added. For the next 1800 years, this worked as designed. In the last 150 years, the development of technology, the change in homogenization of people, and the accessibility to information and things have drastically changed the environment we live in.
My grandfather told the story that his father came to the United States to earn the money to bring his family over. When it was time to leave their little village of Skalat, they said goodbye to everyone they knew because of the hardship and length of travel, they expected to never again see the family and friends they were leaving behind. Today, you hop on a plane and in six or seven hours you can cross the Atlantic.
I remember my first PC, which I bought shortly after I started working in 1985. You had to start the 286 computer with a disc, there was 36K of memory available, Windows did not exist, and I had no dial-up ability (no internet yet). The advances in hardware were battling the advances in software, where technology fought to improve to handle the newer programs being written in some weird game of leapfrog. If I were to pull out the old DOS-based system, I would not be able to run the applications I rely on, communicate with the world, or…there is not or! I would have a large paperweight taking up space. Change was required to keep up with the environment. Some of our rituals have gone the way of the 286 – they had a place in time, they served their original purpose, and, are not known by our children unless they are reading history books on the subject.
I am now left with the question - How can we update our rituals to make them relevant and meaningful to the next generation?