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Do rituals make you happy?
#1
I was listening to Dennis Prager's  "Happiness Hour" today and he contends that rituals make you happy. I didn't get to hear his discussion, and he wasn't necessarily referring to Jewish rituals and he mentioned several American rituals that are disappearing.

So, do rituals make one happy? I could see that by following them one feels part of a community and accepted, which could lead to happiness.
By following religious rituals, one feels connected to G-d and that can bring happiness.
But is there anything past that? Do rituals, whether secular or religious, bring happiness?
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#2
You read my mind by posting this topic, Chavak.  A good portion of the discussion was interrupted by bad phone connections coming from his end.  Part of the program he was lamenting the fact that a female caller was not interested in the wedding ritual. I felt he went off on a bit of tirade and even referred to such disinterest as wooden.  Really?  Although he says he speaks in general terms his reaction, to me, is that of chasing down dissent to change minds.  I think he struggles believing a woman that chooses a career over marriage could possibly be happier for it.  I just don't agree. Women vary as much in temperament as men, and not all are cut out for marriage. 

I never got much out of the ritual of communion or confession while attending Mass, but as a child complied. I do think there are traditions that help contribute to happiness, especially if it is an enjoyable event filled with meaning such as Thanksgiving.

A secular caller, teacher, did say he had a ritual of celebrating Thor's Day, on Thursday, and each day had something special that the kids loved and looked forward too.
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#3
Ritual manufactures a comfort zone.
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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#4
(05-25-2019, 02:02 PM)nili wrote: Ritual manufactures a comfort zone.

And comfort leads to happiness?
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#5
(05-26-2019, 02:32 AM)Chavak wrote:
(05-25-2019, 02:02 PM)nili wrote: Ritual manufactures a comfort zone.

And comfort leads to happiness?

Sometimes, but mostly it serves as a navigation guide.
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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#6
(05-26-2019, 07:49 PM)nili wrote:
(05-26-2019, 02:32 AM)Chavak wrote:
(05-25-2019, 02:02 PM)nili wrote: Ritual manufactures a comfort zone.

And comfort leads to happiness?

Sometimes, but mostly it serves as a navigation guide.

So we tend to do things that make us comfortable, rather than, as they say, reach outside our comfort zone?
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#7
(05-26-2019, 10:30 PM)Chavak wrote:
(05-26-2019, 07:49 PM)nili wrote:
(05-26-2019, 02:32 AM)Chavak wrote:
(05-25-2019, 02:02 PM)nili wrote: Ritual manufactures a comfort zone.

And comfort leads to happiness?

Sometimes, but mostly it serves as a navigation guide.

So we tend to do things that make us comfortable, rather than, as they say, reach outside our comfort zone?

I'm really not at all sure where this conversation is going. Let me try something else ...

Back in the mid sixties I participated in civil disobedience training aimed at teaching people how to handle physical attack. It was all fairly simple stuff, and I remember being told that more important than the specifics of what to do is having specifics of what to do.

It's a lesson that stuck with me. one that was reinforced much later when my daughter died. I knew what to do -- Jewish tradition provided me with a roadmap.
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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#8
I think it can go both ways.

Rituals may make you happy as you build discipline.

They may make you unhappy if you think they are burdensome.

Obviously this has nothing to do with the caller, just my point of view on rituals!
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#9
I am a bit late, but I wanted to chime in on this thread for a while now. Since I've lived most of my life without many rituals to speak of, now that I started implementing some rituals into my life, I am thinking about the effects of those a lot.

When I seriously started considering converting to Judaism, I tried out different approaches towards Shabbat. First, I went all in. I wanted to try and see what it would entail to observe Shabbat in the strict sense (at least, to my understanding, what it was, I am still learning and do not claim to know everything). So I made sure to go off the grid, to have my work done in advance, not use devices and so on. This was way too much for the beginning. I was not prepared to do this, had some health issues that were demanding, too, and I perceived it as a burden, so, for the time being at that point, I gave up on it (after questioning myself, of course, because how could I convert if I cannot even keep Shabbat). It felt forced and too early and it also cut me off from my family, who I can only contact via phone.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself in a situation where I had subsequently made small changes in my life that added  up to me now having an established Shabbat routine that I am looking forward to very much each week. I don't know what made my perception change, but after I gave up on that idea of having to adhere 100% to the most strict definition of Shabbat observance or to do nothing, I felt a bit relieved and could approach the topic from a more relaxed manner. For a while, I did nothing. Then I just grew an urging need of doing something to greet Shabbat. And so I started with lighting the candles, saying the prayer and going in small steps from there towards an extend that I identify with.

My ritual / routine is now cleaning my flat and going grocery shopping on Friday afternoon, so I really don't have to do any work on Shabbat, to sit down with the candles Friday evening, say the prayer, maybe some juice with that and usually I eat afterwards. I absolutely love it and it brings me so much joy, it is like closing you eyes on a weekday, and opening them again on a day that is yours for enjoyment. It also makes me reflect more on the positive things, it brings a happy calmness, centeredness.

I would like to add that I think it helped me become more structured and disciplined, too, even if the last sentence sounds like I'm just in for the fun. I have to structure my week in a way that enables me to prepare on Friday and even if that only takes two hours, sometimes I really do not feel like it, but I simply do it anyway because I enjoy the feeling of starting Shabbat in a clean flat so much. Before, I would have usually shrugged, would not have done the cleaning, procrastinated shopping until Saturday evening and so on. It is so much easier to have those anchors in your life - it's Friday, so you clean! Simple and easy. Relieves you from the burden of having to make decisions for each and every single thing - do I reserve Tuesday for cleaning? Or Thursday? This drains your ressources. I really do think that such rituals (in the same way a fixed schedule does) enhance mental wellbeing a lot, if you experience the positive effects.

Same with other things, such as visiting sick people to help them as a Mitzvah. Without being religiously obligated to do so, one might say "yeah, that might be a good idea, but right now....my time, I'm not sure, would it be intrusive, etc., etc." and end up not doing it. If you view it from a religious perspective, you might get the needed initial energy to just go on and do it, get out of that comfort zone and have a positive outcome on both the side of the sick person and on your own. I really love this and since I have started trying to do such things, I have seen only positive effects and felt happy to have pushed myself, with the help of Telushkins reflections of jewish ethics. Wink Ok, a Mitzvah is not quite the same as lighting the candles on Shabbat, but I think the pattern is the same. Guidelines for everything, that are in place for a very good reason since sometimes the gut reaction is not what makes you and others happy in the long run.


So, in a sense, the rituals I established first pushed me way out of my comfort zone, then they actually widened it and they made my life happier.
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#10
Thank you for sharing this Sarah!

I would think it might (maybe not) be easier for someone who always observed Shabbat from when they were young as that is what they are accustomed to.

For someone to live their whole life not observing and then diving in full throttle, that must be very difficult.

So I'm happy you found your way to get accustomed to it and now see how much easier it is. Plus the fact you see the joys just adds to the whole Shabbat experience.

And yes, I think not only Shabbat, but Judaism in whole teaches us structure and discipline. And what better teacher do we have than G-d Himself!!
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