3 Ways to Reconnect with Ritual
This past weekend we celebrated the first two nights of Passover. We hosted one night at our house with close friends, lots of children, and Peter’s parents. The next night we went to other dear friend’s house to celebrate with them and more friends, more kids, and Peter’s parents.
When I first began dating Peter I remember going to his father’s house in Massachusetts for my very first Seder, and the first time meeting his family. I immediately loved Passover: the story, the ceremony, the food, the songs, the wine . . . I mean, what’s not to love?
Since then Peter and I have hosted at least one Seder at our house every year. I started out with so much enthusiasm, I wanted to get everything just right, and I loved hosting. Peter’s mother would come visit for the holiday every spring, and I definitely wanted to impress her, but I also genuinely enjoyed it.
Over the years, my enthusiasm waned. It started to feel like an obligation, not a joy. I found myself disengaging around planning the meal and the guest list and even kind of resenting “having to” do it at all. I mean, I’m not Jewish, it’s not my tradition, it’s so much work, and even though I always tried to do everything right, I somehow always forgot something or mixed things together that should not be mixed.
This year I was setting the table with zero delight and I said to Peter, “this has stopped being fun for me. It now just feels like an obligation.”
And he said, “okay, so what are we going to do about that?”
Celebrating Passover wasn’t really the issue, I’m usually all for celebration and gatherings, so we dove deeper into the conversation we uncovered three ways to heal my attitude that were super relevant to so many aspects of our lives. I thought I would share them with you.
We had been following the rituals set out by his family without making them our own, for our family. Part of this is because I didn’t come to the table with any of my own Seder traditions when we met, so there was nothing to combine to form anew. But when I asked the question, “how could I bring more meaning to this for me?” I was able to feel more freedom in picking out things that I really resonate with – the story and songs I love that we used to often skip.
We so often adopt rituals or ceremonies from our ancestors and don’t think to tweak them (I’m not saying we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater here – I love to keep the threads of meaning intact). And if we don’t feel connected to the rituals, then we often forgo them all together, rather than making them our own.
There were parts of the Haggadah (the text we read from with the order and story of Passover) that I never really understood. Why do we dip greens twice in salt water? Why do we have an egg on the Seder plate? Why do some people put an orange on the Seder plate and others don’t? Why do we have to wait so long between the 1st and 2nd glasses of wine and then the 3rd and 4th follow so quickly?
While we were at our friend’s house for Passover they encouraged everyone to ask questions, with the idea that the more we inquire the more we can connect to our actions and the reason for the holiday in the first place. This gave me an incredible sense of joy, to be able to really ask why without feeling any judgment or like I was questioning something sacred. Instead, it was seen as an opening to a deepening of understanding for everyone.
Curiosity is such a valuable thing to bring to every situation, and the more we seek to understand, the less we judge ideas and others harshly. Ask the questions.
I stopped choosing Passover. I pretended that it was being done to me, even though that was totally untrue. When given the option to not do it again next year, I said, “no, of course we’re going to celebrate Passover always.” So apparently it wasn’t such an ordeal after all. I was just feigning victimhood because I wasn’t engaged.
Then I chose, really chose, not just to host Passover, but to celebrate Passover with a positive and enthusiastic attitude, and it was so much more enjoyable.
Often the biggest hindrance to our delight is our own bad attitude. And luckily we always have the opportunity to choose to change that – we can find the depth, the fun, the joy, the meaning in any activity, we just have to be willing.
So, next year I might make mistakes, I might forget the horseradish or disagree that it’s bitter, but I’ll be celebrating Passover, this beautiful holiday, once again. And I’ll be bringing my own take on the rituals, I’ll be curious and ask questions, and I’ll choose to have an attitude of joy through it all.
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