OyChicago blog

Creating New Ritual

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07/13/2009

As Jews of the modern age, we have the ability to create for ourselves traditions which speak to us personally and fit the times we live in. I see this more and more these days, especially as a cantor. Even some rituals which now seem commonplace were once new and unexplored—like bat mitzvahs and baby naming and the addition of an orange to the Seder plate!

I have been incredibly drawn to this idea in the past, and I spoke about a new ritual I helped create in my post "Twice Blessed." I am also excited that two new prayer books have recently been published—one from Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York and the other from Sha'ar Zahav in San Francisco. Both are now available to the public, and open new doors into how prayers can be utilized with translations that are incredibly inviting. A recent article on Jewcy.com reviews the new siddur from Sha'ar Zahav and shares some of its offerings.

The Reform movement in particular has chosen to apply great sensitivity to its word choices and the language it uses in its prayers. This is apparent in its newest siddur, Mishkan Tefillah. Over the past two decades, much thought and energy has been given to replacing masculine imagery of God with gender neutral language where possible, as well as including the names of female counterparts to the traditional and original male references. For example, all of the imahot (mothers) have been a part of the avot (fathers) prayer for quite some time, while a new addition is the name of Miriam alongside Moses in the Mi Chamocha.

I must add that creating new ritual is not always a serious effort. My family and good family friends have rarely missed a chance to give thanks to Maxwell House for sponsoring our free Haggadahs during Passover! I am sure that our Seder would feel somewhat lacking if we didn't make mention of this personal tradition.

I am curious to know what type of personal rituals you have created, and how do you relate to them? Perhaps you wrote your own vows for your wedding or maybe you have your own specific family traditions. Just think, if you share, there is a good chance that someone else would love to make your tradition their own!

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