When She Arrives

How can creativity and a sense of commandedness be combined when confronting new ritual needs?

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His prayer describes all that he hopes she will become; he speaks of kindness and courtesy, of rootedness and radical innocence. He then concludes the poem by wishing her a life filled with the meaning of ritual: "And may her bridegroom bring her to a house/ Where all's accustomed, ceremonious…"  Thus, the poem exemplifies one of the virtues for which the poet prays: a life of ritual, of custom and ceremony, in which our carefully crafted actions--our poems, our artistry, our desperate and never-quite-sufficient attempts to overcome the feelings of powerlessness in order to fulfill our obligations--take on transcendent meaning that is derived from, but not exhausted by, our intentions. "How but in custom and in ceremony/ Are innocence and beauty born?"

It would have been easier for Emily and me to arrive at the moment and find the ritual waiting, without having to make choices about what was right for us and for our community. Something is undoubtedly missing from ritual that is constructed consciously, rather than simply received and accepted.

And yet, in the process of weighing our obligations and considering how to draw upon the tradition to satisfy them, how to overcome the feeling of powerlessness through the creation of custom and ceremony, something may also be gained as well: an intimate connection, a genuine encounter, a depth of commitment. B'ruchah ha-ba'ah; blessed is she who has arrived.

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Jon A. Levisohn

Jon A. Levisohn is Assistant Professor of Jewish Education at Brandeis University.