An Encyclopedia of American Synagogue Ritual

An Encyclopedia of American Synagogue Ritual

An Encyclopedia of American Synagogue Ritual

An Encyclopedia of American Synagogue Ritual

Synopsis

Provides historical background and explains the meaning of rituals in the American Jewish community.

Excerpt

Rituals provide us with the primary foundation for religious life because they take the abstract ideas of ideologues and express them in concrete forms where humans live and interact with one another. For some in this generation, rituals have developed a negative connotation. But the notion of a ritual itself is without positive or negative valuation. It may be considered value neutral until it is fleshed out within the context of a particular religious tradition. In this era of “pop psychology” laden with overanalysis of even the most basic of human behaviors, everything seems to reveal something that is mysterious and deep-seated. It is the performer of the ritual or the context in which a ritual is performed that gives it meaning and it is the ideological system that underpins the ritual that provides it with a foundation from which that meaning can emerge. Some rituals evoke this meaning immediately. Others do not. Often rituals communicate differently throughout history, even changing from positive to negative, particularly over time, as a result of a personal or community event. For example, the breaking of a glass at the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony (to mark the commemoration of the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem) changed in meaning after the modern state of Israel emerged in 1948. No longer did people have to mourn over the exile of the Jewish people from Jerusalem. Similarly, the relationship with Jerusalem took on even greater meaning after the Six Day War in 1967 when the old city of Jerusalem was united with west Jerusalem.

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