Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making Connections Through Ritual - Tuesday Kavvanah, 11/29/2011

What is meant by the term ritual?

The question was asked, curiously enough, at a Ritual Committee meeting last night.  I gave an extemporaneous answer, but after sleeping on it, the following definition surfaced:  Ritual is what connects us in a Jewish context - to ourselves, to each other, to the community, to God.

The spirit of ritual is captured in the following, easily-overlooked statement that appears at the very beginning of  many siddurim / prayerbooks, to be recited in the morning before tefillah / prayer begins in earnest:

הריני מקבל / מקבלת עלי מצות הבורא: ואהבת לרעך כמוך
Hareini meqabbel / meqabbelet alai mitzvat haborei: ve-ahavta lere-akha kamokha
I hereby accept the obligation of fulfilling the Creator's mitzvah: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

This statement is a brief reminder that one of the underlying goals of tefillah should be to connect God, the Torah, the self, and the other, succinctly captured in a preparatory kavvanah / statement of intention.  By citing Leviticus 19:18 at the beginning of the service, even before the formal berakhot / blessings have begun, we bring all of these connections into focus.  This is indeed the essence of ritual.

Rabbi Seth Adelson

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