As a rabbi, I lament the fact that so many Jews feel that Judaism is a stuffy, boring, repetitive tradition. I lament (and sometimes even resent) this because it’s simply NOT true. It’s actually dead wrong.
Jewish rituals, Jewish holiday observances, Jewish worship– all of these, in their truest expressions, are the opposite of stuffy, boring, and repetitive. All of these, and all aspects of Judaism, are meant to be informed by our life experience, by our contemporary concerns, and by the world around us.
Take Torah study. Do Jews read the same 5 books of the Torah every year? Absolutely. Could this be considering boring, stuffy, and repetitive? Yes, but only if the teacher and the student are complicit in a conspiracy to make them so. Only if we are so narrow in our approach to studying Torah that we drown out our questions, if we turn off our minds, if we close our hearts, and enter the experience expecting to be unchanged.
Passover is approaching. Of the Jews that will sit down at the seder table this year too many will do so with low expectations. They may declare that Passover is their favorite holiday but they’ll still sit down expecting seder to be stuffy, boring, and repetitive. Rather than thinking about what they will bring to the seder table to enhance the experience they will ask what they will get out of the experience. Though they’ll be dynamic, engaged, and provocative in other areas of their life (both personal and professional) they will be passive, resentful, and shallow in their celebration of the Passover story. Those who come to Passover intentionally, thoughtfully, and with the desire to engage with the themes of the holiday and the other people at the seder table are not only likely to have a much richer experience. Those who come to Passover in this spirit are honoring the intent of the holiday and of Jewish tradition itself.