We have so many rituals in our lives, we don’t even think about them. I would venture to say that most of us having a morning ritual: perhaps it includes brushing our teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, a cup of coffee, something to eat, maybe a little exercise or yoga or meditation, and we are off for the day. For most people, the morning ritual is done in the same order each and every morning, perhaps differing slightly on the weekend.
So too in Judaism. Our religion is comprised of many rituals, rituals which help us to function throughout the day. We need a ritual to wake us up in the mornings. Though coffee might be the perfect answer for many, perhaps there can be more to a morning “lift-me-up” than just a hot or cold drink. Perhaps we can begin to wake up in the mornings, appreciative for simply being alive. The first prayer we traditionally say in the morning states: Modeh ani lifanecha, I offer thanks before You God for You have mercifully restored my soul within me, the soul that parted over night and returned, enabling me to function each and every day.
At the conclusion of the day, we have ritual as well. We sing Hashkiveinu, which asks God to guard us and watch over us as we sleep, to protect us so that we will awake renewed the next day. We then recite Shema, so that the last words on our lips are always words of praise for our God.
These rituals seem somewhat foreign to many, and yet they are so easy to add into our already structured day with morning and evening rituals. And if it seems too burdensome to add these rituals in every day, then perhaps we can begin with Shabbat. As we celebrate the Shabbatot during the month of Elul, perhaps we can add just a flavor of ritual into our day, to bring a greater level of depth and meaning, of relaxation, joy and family to the one day we call Shabbat. And maybe that will be the beginning of a whole new ritual.
Ritual is often understood as the keva,
The part that becomes routine and fixed.
But it allows for the kavannah,
The deeper meaning that only comes
When we learn to recite prayers, to thank our God.
May this New Year allow for new ritual, to add to the old.
May this ritual bring us closer to our God.
Now let the sound of the shofar be heard;
And let our souls be awakened!
Rabbi Debbie Bravo
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