I am in the beginning moments of reflecting back on what I want to take with me into Shabbat and what I wish to leave behind as I close my week.  I smile as I recall how my week started with JoC Sanctuary Ritual Studio.  A program called Mezuzah Bedazzle.  Creation is a beautiful and powerful thing.  Perhaps that is why we start there in our annual reading of Torah.  The act of making can also calm us as it gives us something to do with our hands, and perhaps a way to make sense inside our minds.  Somewhere along our journey into adulthood, many give up the simple joy of making for making’s sake.  Witnessing this tendency interrupted is a precious moment during a session of Mezuzah Bedazzle­–seeing adults allowing themselves to play.  When children attend, they take to the task easily.  Adults often need more time, but always arrive.  And, in the midst of joyful gathering and separating and imagining creation making with intention we studied about mezuzot, and had conversations with each other–learning, listening, laughing…  This is what I’m bringing in to spark Shabbat!

In the way that we are made in the image of God, and perhaps God also holds parts of us, may we reflect aspects of our children as we mold them into adults.  In a world filled with too much sorrow may we give ourselves the gift of choosing simple joys all around us, even if we have to mimic our children until we find our way.  May we choose to embrace ritual in ways that are meaningful for our lives and relish opportunities to listen and learn from the wisdom of every person, seeing God reflected in each face.  May our spiritual sparkle bedazzle our world.

Personalizing Ritual

When I was a child, I was always creating. Somewhere, on the way to adulthood, despite going into a creative profession, I left the devising ritual and imbuing meaning to other professionals. While I was taught to think and to question, that was only supposed to go so far before turning to an expert. It sounds strange to say, but I now realize I am the expert of myself and my life and in choosing what moments I want to create ritual and highlight meaning around.

Reading Inventing Jewish Ritual by Vanessa L. Ochs came at the perfect time and helped hone the ritual innovator inside me to more confidently claim ownership over my prayers and new rituals in a subtly different, but deeply profound way. Prayer had always felt meaningful and personal to me, but Ochs’ historical foundation framing of Jewish ritual development created space for me to bring a fuller authentic self to current rituals and helped me to bravely create rituals rooted in Jewish practice for important life moments I want to mark or honor.

I feel there are many lost opportunities to help Jews of Color see themselves through the people of Color in the Torah. One of the foundational reasons I created this forum is to offer a safe space, a sanctuary, for Jews of Color in the Cincinnati and surrounding areas to explore those topics among other Jews of Color craving similar opportunities for chevruta, study and exploration. Our March event topic was Celebrating JOC Ritual and beyond texts pulled from Creating Jewish Ritual, we used one of my favorite texts borrowed from a friend’s article titled Bagels, Lox, and Grits: Defining My Jewish Identity by Yolanda Savage-Narva.

One of the food elements I connect with Rosh Hashanah is black eyed peas, after reading this was a popular African dish to celebrate the Gregorian New Year. This afternoon, I was part of a program that happened in an art studio. I learned a new kiln was being fired for the first time. As as artist who has mourned the loss of pieces which didn’t make it through firing, I immediately offered a simple prayer for a vessel which will bring beauty into the world. Daily minyans and Shabbat are crucial for me, but acknowledging the relevance of art is important to me too. Bringing aspects of myself in that I sometimes feel are pushed aside helps me step into a fullness of myself and my power that is exactly what I believe God wants for me. In the end, the ritual nuances that bring me the most joy are often simple elements. How they find their place is not always easy, but it always feels worth it.