“The abolition of profane time and the individual’s projection into mythical time do not occur, of course, except at essential periods – those, that is,
when the individual is truly himself: on the occasion of rituals. . . The rest of his life is passed in profane time, which is without meaning: in the state of ‘becoming.’”
This, from The Myth of the Eternal Return, by Mircea Eliade, explains why I should have been born Jewish. I love rituals.
You’d think that, growing up Catholic, I would have had my fill of ritual. But it seems like in Catholicism the priests, and sometimes the altar boys, got to do it all – raising up the host, chanting in Latin (and now it’s not even in Latin anymore), clicking out the incense. All we did was kneel and watch. Jews, on the other hand, do it themselves: building cool huts in the backyard, lighting candles one by one, and, most of all, the incredibly complicated Passover Seder.
I would have done all of it, except maybe the Q-Tip yeast-scouring yesterday and the lamb blood. Eating parsley and bitter herbs and matzo and a sandwich (not to mention a whole meal) and drinking all that wine in between; the four questions (does it have to be a child?); and, best of all, the spooky extra place setting for Elijah.
Why rituals? Because they take us out of ordinary, boring, quotidian time; connect us with history and our ancestors; and transport us to something special, something eternal.
Now I’m ready to count the Omer.