Do We Need Rituals?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I had this debate with my sister. We are both trying to raise proud Jewish families, so I was surprised to hear that in her home, they do not light Chanukah candles. She says rituals aren't necessary for Jewish identity. Her words: "It's very cute and quaint to light candles with the kids, but how does that help the world?" I feel she is wrong but couldn't explain why. It does seem a bit silly to say that lighting candles is such a big deal. So, how can I convey that rituals are important?
Imagine you had never seen fire before in your life, and I showed you a flame on a candle. Then I asked you, do you think you can make a fire like this?
You would not think it is possible. A flame is such an intricate creation, with hues of red and orange and blue, a flickering motion, intense heat and bright light. Where can one get all the ingredients to make such a concoction?
Then I showed you how I made this flame. All I did was light a match.
You would be convinced that there is some trick here. How can the simple flick of a wrist create such a magnificent effect? The act doesn't fit the result.
We don't think about it, but it's true. The mere act of striking a match alone isn't worthy of its impact. We can't really take credit for making a flame. G-d created the power of combustion, which means that when you take certain materials and manipulate them in a certain way, a fire appears. So the flame is G-d's creation. But that flame can only come if you light the match.
The wise King Solomon said, "Every mitzvah is a candle." Like lighting a flame, our act in doing a mitzvah may seem insignificant, but the light it creates is not. An awesome divine energy is released each time we perform a Jewish ritual, because they are not just rituals, they are G-d's commands. Whether it be lighting Chanukah candles, putting on Tefillin or shaking a Lulav, making Kiddush or affixing a Mezuzah, these small acts have cosmic impact. The spiritual result far outweighs the physical effort.
Most of us don't understand why striking a match makes a fire. But we all know it works. Rituals work too. The most memorable and powerful moments are made around Jewish rituals. Your children will forget most of the lectures you give them. They wont forget the candles you lit with them.