This week will find many a Jewish person celebrating Pesach, or Passover, if you please.

It’s the annual recitation of the story of Exodus, the fleeing of enslavement in Egypt, a story that was also inspiration for the enslaved Africans in the States as they looked toward a time when they or their children or their grandchildren might escape bondage and live as free people.

It’s a ritual-heavy holiday. Traditionally, the meal lasts for hours and culminates with yet another glass of wine. Well, maybe one more…

We were never that family, really, and now we all tipple grape juice for our various and individual reasons.

My favorite thing about the ritual – other than the song that is oddly funny despite it being a story of who got their just deserts from whom – is the recitation of the plagues.

For one, my mom has collected all manner of plague-related toys and masks over the years because, really, boils only get better with a cardboard mask representation of them.

But, more so, I like that part of the ritual is to take a little wine (or grape juice) out of our glasses for each plague in acknowledgment of how the Egyptian people suffered from them. It’s a subtle reminder that we can have opponents without having enemies.

Perhaps the most baffling part of the ritual is that we are not to eat anything leavened – no yeasted bread, no cakes made lighter with baking powder, no, even, to certain grains – because when it was time for the Hebrews to skedaddle, they went about it with a quickness, packing their bread dough on their backs where it flattened into the crackers now known as matzoh instead of becoming a proper fluffy loaf.

This is confusing because, of course, the Hebrews did leaven their bread. It just didn’t have time to rise.

That Judaism is a religion old enough that many of its traditions have lost their foundational meaning (leaving us to guess, for example, why we break a glass at the end of a wedding) is interesting to me but not really my point.

My point is that rituals become hollow, confusing or alienating, even, when severed from their deeper meaning.

And, to add, we crave ritual, at least sometimes.

That is, ritual helps us navigate the depths of being human in a world that works mighty hard to convince us that all the meaning we need can be found in our phones and wallets.

In the run-up to my friend’s death earlier this month, I talked to a few people about forming a grief ritual.

Judaism has a lovely one, shaped to give space for unabashed, undistracted grief and then a clear and detailed pathway toward reentering life fully – not to end the grief (the Jewish grief ritual lasts a lifetime) – but to acknowledge that even as we grieve, the rest of life continues to have expectations of us… and to expect us to truly and fully live.

At least, that’s how that ritual feels to me.

But both because of my longtime distance from the religion of Judaism and because Courtney wasn’t Jewish, the ritual felt like not quite the right one. A good idea but not actually available.

I didn’t come up with my plan before she transitioned…

…and I’m not sure, now that I can see how those first couple of weeks played out, that I would have followed through on any plan that I made.

And all of that is okay because, well, it’s reality and also because there’s still time.

My heart still aches.

I’m still adjusting to a world where she’s not always a text or drive away.

I’m still learning what friendship with her looks like now, with this profound distance that still, somehow, doesn’t shear our closeness.

Judaism has a prayer for everything, a ritual for everything, which I found a little annoying when I was a kid being raised in a Jewish day school, going to Saturday morning services with dolls and books to keep me still enough for the duration, having Shabbat dinner each Friday night.

Through the lens of Buddhism, I’ve come to see all of those prayers and rituals as opportunities to stop and really notice life over and over again each day.

Through the lens of Buddhism, I’ve reconnected with a meaning behind the practices, a realization of the Dalai Lama’s suggestion that to practice Buddhism isn’t necessarily to be a better Buddhist but to be a better whatever-you-are.

Whatever you are, friend, and whatever in your life is inviting you to presence, to intentionality – perhaps even to ritual – I hope it starts with a connection to the meaning…

…the meaning that connects your entirely unique inner landscape with the reality that we are all inextricably interdependent in the shared experience that is life, the universe, and everything.

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