Rituals – holy or wholly?

As often happens with our Kaftor v’Ferach group (that’s what we named ourselves….long story), we almost didn’t get further than the first word in the book…..Vayikra, being called.  And, as always happens, we generate more questions than answers!  One that stuck with me is this:

If rituals are in and of themselves kadosh, or holy, they are also they are also something that separates something from something else, because  another facet of the word kadosh is “separate”.  So, is ritual a model for a “holiness” or a “wholeness”, something that unites us?

I think of some of the rituals I engage in throughout the year, and the first one that popped into my head is setting the table for the Pesach Seder.  The same plates, the same Seder Plate, mostly (thank God) the same people at the same table.  And I know that as I set that table, women around the world at almost the same time, are doing the same thing I am.  It’s unifying in that sense; it connects me with people across time and space.  But then, I think, this is a fairly unique thing to be doing – it’s unique to a small group of people, and it clearly separates us from most everyone else.  So, it’s establishing a distinction, a dividing line.

We clearly gravitate toward ritual, every group does.  Why?  Or is that the answer….every group does.  Ritual defines us, distinguishes us, gives us a clearer sense of “doing” our identity.  We both connect and disconnect. It’s one of the tensions that comes with identity, because when we define ourselves as something, we’re simultaneously defining ourselves as not something else.

The rituals  of Vayikra will tell us much about both of those….starting again next week…


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