Religious rituals have from time immemorial been responsible for shaping the different religions that exist across the world. Rituals and practices that members observe often vary from one religion to another in regards to rules and the belief systems. Some religions incorporate myths to their rituals by passing on stories about the supernatural through metaphors (Bowen 96). Having grown up in a Roman Catholic household, I was used to the rituals and practices that routinely took place at particular points in an individual’s life to mark a transition. When Welter Rosenberg, my classmate of Jewish descent, lost his elderly grandmother after a long battle with cervical cancer, I happened to get an invitation to condole the family.
On the day when mourning was set to start, my elder brother and I drove to the Rosenberg residence in Santa Monica, LA where we would meet the family. On arrival at the house, my attention was on some male relatives of the deceased who wore torn clothing. The tears were made on the chest area, above the heart if it was ones parent that had died and if the deceased was a relative, the tear would be made on the right side. After a brief explanation from Walter, I came to the realization that the tearing of one’s clothing on receiving news of the death of a close relative was part of Jewish tradition (Wolowelsky 55). I later found out that the tear was known askeriyah which translates to “tearing.”
All the mourners present inside the house were deep in meditation while reciting blessings to Jehovah, acknowledging that He was the “real judge” and accepting His will regarding the fact that He is the giver of life. The somber mood at the house was quite moving for me. At one point the incessant wailing of the senior women nearly brought me to tears, especially when they would call out to God in shrill voices that ran chills down my spine. My stay with the Rosenberg family had to come to an end as the family was to be left alone during this time and no condolence calls would continue (the annuity period).
The process of mourning in Judaism left an emotional impact on me. I did not know Walter Rosenberg’s grandmother personally, but the profound sadness that I did experience during the mourning period was responsible for emotions ranging from shock to disbelief (which I now I had to grapple with). Feelings of sympathy for all of the close family members that were left behind would come welling up to me, and I had to take time off from my routine to get over my experience and grieve privately. It was not long before I made the connection between what I learned in class and my experience during a Jewish mourning practice. The ritual was symbolic, and the activities in this ritual were responsible for bringing together friends and family to express their deepest feelings and thoughts about an important event in life.
Religious rituals seek to maintain sacred connections among its members. A functional purpose of rituals is the application of wisdom about an event which often accumulates over time to impose order on the chaos that people might experience in life.