Here we are, suspended in time between the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av, which was observed on Thursday, and Tu B’Av, a lesser known holiday, that is considered to be a holiday of love..  Tu B’Av begins on sundown this Tuesday, and is celebrated all day Wednesday.  You can read more about this holiday here.  I love the juxtaposition of these two days, just six days apart.  It’s just so bittersweet, so Jewish. We have the extreme emotional low of Tisha B’Av, with its elegies and haunting melodies of Lamentations, and the physical challenge of fasting for 25 hours.  And then we swing upward with a romantic holiday meant to remind us of love.

In my personal life, this week marked the end of my kids’ backyard camp that we organized with other families in our neighborhood. For six weeks, this small group of kids got some semblance of normalcy, as we hiked, tye-dyed, learned origami, swam, built birdhouses, and swam some more. We established community rules and built rituals together, from the mundane “pizza Fridays”, to the revered “kisei ha-kavod”- the seat of honor, upon which each child got to sit and receive praise from their fellow campers when the lucky day arrived that their name was chosen out of the glass jar. And when yesterday’s camp day came to a close, and the counselors (aka parents) handed out paper plate awards to the campers, we toasted to the end of something very special that we had created.

And now it’s August and I can’t really put my worries off any longer. August also means, like it or not, we’re in the countdown to the high holidays. 

The holidays of Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av and the end of my kids’ “Qamp Quarantine” has got me thinking: what rituals will we be holding on to this year for the holidays?  What new rituals might we want to introduce? Are there elements that may have always felt like “must-dos” or “must-haves” that may need to get re-negotiated? I’m imagining if you typically travel to be with family that may be out this year, but perhaps making that special recipe you always make will remain. 

I’m buying Casper der Tuile’s new book this week. It’s called The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices. It’s not a “Jewish” book, but I’m hoping I’ll find some ideas in there to help bring in the fall season with intentionality and perhaps to enhance my experience of the high holidays, too. 

I’d love to hear from you. What summer rituals have you held on to that have given you hope?  Any new ones you’ve built or created? Any special rituals for the high holidays that you’re planning to keep this year? We’ve got 7 weeks to go, so let’s start sharing and planning together for a meaningful and memorable high holiday season.

4 thoughts on “The power of ritual”

  1. Dara Schnee says:

    Love the camp idea you created. Lucky kids and the award ceremony seems so great.

    My only summer ritual has been Zentangle which helps me mark days of the week as they all keep running in together.

    See you at 3,

  2. Fraeda Lewis says:

    One thing that I have enjoyed is getting together with friends for socially distanced picnics. We bring our own food, drinks, chairs, etc. But, at least we are together. Enjoying each other’s company. Catching up on what they are doing. We learn about what shows to watch, books to read. It’s a bit of normalcy. What will we do when it gets cold?!

  3. Ellensue Levinson-Jeffers says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your summer with your children, including all of your neighbors. What a creative idea to give the children some normalcy, giving them much needed structure.
    My ritual routine has been visiting my mother twice a week and working out on certain days, to keep the day’s and week’s from running together. Those are my personal rituals.
    The holidays may be somewhat difficult considering we will not have our father’s with us during that time. This will give us plenty of time of reflection, as the summer has given us to strengthen our spirituality. Staying connected is very important. Thank you for all you do! Health safety and peace!

  4. Myrna Cardin says:

    Hi, Rachel,
    Your camp sounded wonderful. I’m convinced that one day when this generation reminisces about this time, many of them will have very special memories.
    Our family of about 20 always had Shabbat dinner together. When we stopped, we decided we had to do something to keep in touch. Every Friday night, we light candles, bless our children and say the kiddish on zoom.
    When we were together, we would mention something that made us happy that week. As time went on, it became difficult to do that when we were all inside.
    Now we have a question each week such as your best “cold” memory or a great road trip on your favorite ice cream! Many of the favorites involve other family members. It’s a wonderful ritual.

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