Philadelphians Arthur Ocean Waskow and Phyllis Ocean Berman are leaders in the Jewish renewal movement. He directs the Shalom Center and wrote Godwrestling-Round 2; she directs Elat Chayyim's Summer Program and is coauthor of Tales of Tikkun. More than twenty years ago, Waskow published Seasons of Our Joy, a classic work about the round of Jewish festivals throughout the year. In this volume, they set out to provide rituals for those who "trying to digest Modernity and move forward to a richer Judaism of the future." Or as Berman explains: "Our ritual life marks the many transitions in what we pray will be a long lifetime. It poses the possibility of integrating our inner experiences with the wisdom of the outer world. It hints at others to whom we can honestly turn for witness, for support, for comfort, for advice, for appreciation, for companionship along the unknown path ahead."
The authors call this resource a spiritual handbook and a spiritual history of the four traditional rituals in the life-cycle (birth, marriage, children, death) plus some new ceremonies that are keyed to the changes in our lives. As Waskow points out: "We not only live longer, we change spouses, our jobs, our vocations, our homes much more often. Whole sections of our lives, like the time between fifty and seventy and the time between seventy and ninety, are filled with new experiences. Maturation is stretched out." In order to accommodate these factors, they have written this book to help those who are facing a particular life-cycle moment, those who are attending someone else's celebration and want to know what is happening, those who want insight into the long arc of Jewish ceremonies, and those who want to develop a spiritual path that grows and educates a Mensch.
Waskow and Berman are master teachers of Jewish ritual with a firm understanding of tradition and a creative grasp of the new challenges in the life-cycle that need ceremonial embodiments. We were especially touched and impressed with the Covenant of Washing (a ritual act of parents washing the feet of a newborn daughter to celebrate her arrival), a Jewish driver's license for youth, "a seder of womanhood" to salute midlife, and a ritual for divorce.