Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jewish Rituals and Hoarding

This is not a religious diatribe or sermon. It occurred to me that a number of rituals in orthodox Judaism take on added significance from the perspective of a COH (child of hoarder).

Passover - Cleaning the House

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; from the first day you shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
Exodus 12:15
Jewish law expands significantly on this verse, but essentially it means in any Jewish household, all not kosher for Passover foods must be removed or put into specially marked storage. This period has come to mean in an observant Jewish home a time of intense scrubbing and cleaning, getting rid of every single crumb of non-Passover foods (except of course those sorted out and put into storage.

What strikes me about the practice, having not grown up in a religously observant household, but being a COH, is that this would be overwhelming to happen with HPs. Just the thought of taking on the HP house to this extent is mind-boggling.

Sukkot - Moving Out

You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel
Leviticus 22:42-43
In the observant Jewish home, this means building a temporary structure outside, with walls of sheets and a roof of tree branches. Yes, for seven days we eat all our meals here, and spend family time in our booth (sukkah). This means taking out of storage the structure for building this, and at the end of the week to take it apart and put it back into storage. The main home is put on hold. As a COH, I see this again as overwhelming for HPs, shaking up the routine, stepping out of the known household and living in a temporary surrounding. The process of building and putting away would seem too much trouble, and take too long to grasp how to get started, and how to take apart. 

For me going through this building and taking apart process is cathartic and healing. I feel like I am in control. Also stepping out of the main home for a week, puts the home in perspective, rather than being a hoarding nest, it is a living space and meant to be lived in and enjoyed.

Shivah - Mourning

The mourning process in Judaism is known as Shivah. This entails seven days of abstaining from many things and remaining focused on the state of mourning. One of the primary issues is sitting at the home of the deceased relative for whom you are mourning for. It is kind of like respecting the karma of the deceased. To remain focused on mourning, the mourner is supposed to abstain from work for seven days. This just doesn't mean your job, but not even cooking for yourself. During this time the community comes together in support of the mourner, preparing meals and visiting the mourner in the home that he is 'sitting' in. Since the mourner is also meant to distinguish himself by sitting on a lower stool, sitting lower than his guests, this period is known as 'sitting shivah'. 

I get tired and confused contemplating carrying out this ritual when the day comes. Just considering going to my HP's house for this presents so many questions. How can we have guests in there? My parents will not die simultaneously, so one will be with me. Will that one, in a state of mourning, want to try to clean up a room or shut up as much of the house so that relatives would be able to visit? As an observant Jew, they are many other obligations during this period. Generally prayer services are arranged in the mourners home, 3 times a day. I don't expect this mourning period, when it would occur, to be so smooth.

Maybe I worry too much or read too much into this.

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