Before you read this please make sure you have read the pre-amble blog. Thank you.
In the previous blog, I talked a little about the ritual clothing a person might choose to wear if he or she is a non-Jew but wants to include some aspects of the Jewish wardrobe in their daily routine or faith life. I spoke a little about what I include and why/why not some items are a part of my wardrobe. You can read it here.
This post is going to focus briefly on the other area of Judaica that some people might have in their homes, ritual items.
I feel I should start by saying we have a ‘biblically kosher’ home. That means we do not allow forbidden food into our home. No pork, shellfish etc. No blood. My wife is a vegetarian so this is actually a no-brainer but sometimes I’ll treat myself to a steak or something if I know I’ll be eating alone that evening. ‘Biblically Kosher’ doesn’t mean ‘Kosher’ to an observant Jew. There are differing levels of certification and observation. Something like a jar of peanut butter would need to have a label on it to declare it ‘kosher’ to meet with some peoples standards. I’m not that person. But I do occasionally treat myself to Israeli goods, especially on the high holidays and these usually by default carry the Kosher mark.
So.. what do I have and what don’t I have?
Menora. I have an oil menorah that was gifted to me. It’s an ornamental piece that isn’t the traditional branched style and instead looks like the kotel and each ‘light’ is in the style of an oil or wine jar. It’s a pretty thing. We don’t light it simply because we worry about the equation of oil+fire+home-supervision=death.
Mezzuzah. We have had a mezuzah by our door for some 5 years or so. It’s on the inside and not the outside. We do NOT declare ourselves Jews. But.. we do use the Mezuzah as it was intended, as a tool, to remind us of our home, our world, our place and our behaviour within and without.
Hannukiah. We own and light the 8 candles in order as tradition dictates each year. We have been doing this for 3 years and, again, the Hannukiah was a gift. It’s interesting to me that the most negative feedback I get focuses on this item. Should I celebrate the survival of the Jewish people and Judaism by shining a light into the darkness? Should I display a form that most people in this area would not recognise and in turn spread a little more interest in the Jewish people? Yes.. I should and so should you.
What I don’t have is a Pesach (or Seder plate) – this is basically down to the cost. It’s simply stunning that the shipping to Ireland exceeds the cost of the item. So, for now, we don’t have one and, when it comes to the celebration of Pesach (which I’ll get to when I speak about feasts), we make do with other ways to form the plate or meal.
Because we rarely have meat in the house we don’t worry about having 2 sets of crockery.
I do have a growing collection of books, from Bibles and commentaries to more themed ones on biblical animals or mythological inclusions in the text. I find that stuff super interesting.
Ritual items exist, for the most part, as a type of step, an item to help elevate your journey. They, in themselves, are not enchanted or magical. They are simply tools to help you separate the usual from the unusual, the natural from the supernatural. As a non-Jew, I find the inclusion and use of these items, as modest as they are, very helpful. In the house party of Judaism the non-Jew is always in the kitchen and straining to hear the music but having clear and visual goal posts allows us a more direct and focused dedication within our daily, weekly or yearly routine.
I’m not saying my inclusions, exclusions or reasons are right.. but they are right for me.