GTU Voices - Spirituality x Ritual

Spirituality x Ritual

By Jhos Singer

Life unfolds. A creature is born, it struggles and plays, it rests and strives, it grows and shrivels, and eventually dies. That’s the drill. But every drill exists to hone a skill, a capacity, or to heighten awareness. Human beings invented rituals to put a glinting polish on those sharpened edges.  

Many rituals arise out of a spiritual need to mark a moment—birth, coming of age, confirming an identity or relationship, and death. We hit one of those nodes and there is an incredible urge to stop, notice, acknowledge, and celebrate. The formality of saying the same words of one's forebears who also stood in one of those crossroads provides a sense of continuity, a connection across the generations. It’s a way of time traveling. To drink from the same wedding cup as your great, great, grandparents is to feel with your own flesh what their flesh felt at the same moment in their lives. And that same wedding cup holds you in its memory for your great, great, grandchildren on their wedding day. We tend to those ritual items with care and diligence, because through the simple ritual of drinking from that particular cup, we transcend time, space, and death; elevate the mundane to a level of holiness that defies ordinary boundaries.   

I remember that exact moment at my own wedding. I was marrying into a Jewish family who had been well off in Germany before the rise of the 3rd Reich. As the situation was undeniably deteriorating for them in the late 1930’s, they made the difficult decision to leave. Like Abraham before them, they left their land, their city, and their father’s house. Just as the scripture puts the leaving in the wrong order—certainly one cannot leave their land and city without first leaving their family home—so too did my new relations shed much of their national and regional identity, but they brought along with them remnants, objects, reminders of their father’s house. Including the wedding cups that have been in the family for at least 2 centuries. As I stood under our chuppah (wedding canopy) looking at my bride, holding that cup in my hands, listening to the same blessing that had been intoned under every chuppah in the family for hundreds of years, I was being sworn into a moment of connection with people long dead. That ritual changed my story, altered my destiny, put a new stitch into the tapestry of humanity. No other sip of wine could do that. Those cups are never used except in the context of a wedding. That is rarified ritual space—potent, powerful, and protected. 

Other rituals ground daily life—a moment of gratitude upon waking, a blessing said before eating, the way we sign off on a phone call with our kids or parents—they spark brief moments of awareness, appreciation, and acknowledgement that we are walking in grace. Like peak ritual moments, the everyday blessings and sacred rites we observe afford us the chance to elevate the ordinary. It slows us down. We see more clearly. It is the perfect seasoning to sprinkle on this life’s feast. 

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