And now we’re back, or, “Witchcraft”

Here I am, back to thinking about liturgy and ritual.

I’ve been thinking about liturgy, practice, and taboo quite a lot these days as I consider what lies ahead for me.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a Conservative synagogue, studied at some point in preparation for Conservative rabbinical training, and am on a decidedly different path (though it is strange that some things old are becoming new once again for me; that’s something I’ll discuss as the time becomes right). My humanistic Jewish identification has made things interesting for me in dealing with my prior engagement with Judaism, as I suspect what I would do looks a lot more traditional than what many other humanistic Jews would do in terms of practice, liturgy, etc.

Example: a kippah. Many humanistic Jews would not wear one in any situation, because the point of the thing is to show respect for the God of Israel. I don’t think I’ll be in that category, not because I think there’s a need to show respect vertically, but because i think it helps, for me, to mark off time where I’m directly engaged in Jewish tradition. To do otherwise would, for me, feel uncomfortable (though not impossibly so–I’ve not worn a kippah lighting Shabbat candles in quite some time).

On the other hand, I would find it difficult to enter a synagogue–any synagogue–without slipping a kippah on my head, but the discomfort in doing so feels different to me. That is, if a building is a building is a building, which I recognize, then why the discomfort in entering certain buildings without a kippah? The answer for me is, I think, “simply taboo.” (Now get your witchy fingers out of my hair, Old Blue Eyes.) That’s probably my own issue to work through.

An issue for me and many other humanistic Jews to work through? Getting people in the doors and comfortable. And I think this means adapting pieces of the traditional liturgy so that the Jews we’re thinking belong with us–Jews whose beliefs and practices most closely comport without our own–are comfortable coming in and adjusting to services.

I’m very attached to the traditional liturgy and its melodies; I’m at least as likely to be humming some piece of the traditional Shabbat service (morning or evening) as I am to be humming a Springsteen song or a TV theme song. And I think others are, too, at least insofar as they expect to hear certain melodies and words in order to feel at home.

So, at least for my purposes, I’m thinking of adapting things to make them work for me and my family, because lighting candles without something to say is weird, I can’t say the traditional thing, and I don’t like the alternatives I’ve found.

I’m certain I’ll have more thoughts on this over the coming few weeks as I get a bit more exposure to some things. Hold that thought–I’ll be back around to this.

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