Phases in the Creation and Enactment of a New or Adapted Jewish Rite of Passage
written by Rabbi Goldie Milgram with Barry Bub, M.D.
Phase I. Preparation
The initial idea:
You have felt the need to enact or commemorate a major event in your life. A thought occurs - how about a ritual? Some questions:
· What is the significance of the transition, what do I want the ritual to support, what do I need?
· What metaphors, myths, or stories from Jewish and local culture come to mind as symbolizing me or my transition?
Phase II. Collecting Data:
This is the phase of gathering material and concepts for the ritual process, including, for example, poetry, songs, symbols, people who have brought you to this place in life. This is best done by freely writing down whatever thoughts arise. To facilitate this process, consider the following:
· Who will facilitate and share in the planning of this ritual?
· Will I base this ritual on an existing one from within Judaism or will I design a totally original one?
· Who do I envision being present? Who is my inner circle? Who feels safe to have present? Who might be touched by this? (Also see Volume I, Reclaiming Judaism, pages 48-9.)
· What symbols would I want for this ritual?
· When should the ritual take place? How much time do I need to plan, offer invitations, prepare myself emotionally, set up, and host this event?
· Where is the most appropriate place for the ritual? How will we create sacred space?
· Who is connected to this transition? How are they impacted? Will they be included in the ritual? How?
Phase III. Design
This is the phase of looking at each stage of the ritual and determining what form it will take. To do this, you will draw on the material you have already accumulated as well as new thoughts that will emerge during the process.
1. Preparing yourself.
2. Preparing the space.
3. Opening melody or prayer.
4. Welcoming and gathering the individuals into a group.
5. Declaring the intention.
6. Telling the story.
7. Utilizing symbolic music, poetry, and actions to signify transition you are commemorating. This can occur anywhere in the ritual. In the middle there are usually specific symbolic actions that highlight the particular transition.
8. Inviting blessings.
9. Closing melody or prayer.
Phase IV. Logistics
· Each stage of the ritual needs a basic script so that the process is smooth, integrated, uninterrupted, yet leaving room for spontaneous expression and genuine emotion to emerge.
· A time-table to accomplishment is essential, including who is assigned to follow through with tasks like making room reservations, obtaining ritual objects, text reproduction, décor items, foods, helping to set up, welcome, and clean-up. Depending on the nature of the event, you might also assign someone to videotape or photograph the ritual.
Phase V. Enactment
· The process of preparing for the ritual is in itself an essential part of the shift that comes from the enactment. A wealth of memories, emotions, and perhaps awareness arise in those preparing to participate.
· The enactment is the climax of the process.
Phase IV. Integration.
· In the days, weeks, and months after the ritual, you will begin to savor the unfolding of its effects. Try to avoid micro-analyzing the inevitable glitches that will occur, and allow the overall experience to fill your soul.
· On the one year anniversary of the ritual, revisit memories, plans, images, and symbols. What has shifted? Is more needed or did a difficult or precious season of life unfold that now resides comfortably in your past?