Divrei Hayamim II – Thirty-Three: Inventing Ritual

At the start of my final week of Project 929 (!!!) the people are still screwing up, but this time in an almost moderated way. “But the people were still sacrificing on the high places, but only to the Lord their God (Chronicles II 33:17).” I just finished reading a great book that really impacted me – Inventing Jewish Ritual, by Vanessa Ochs. In the book, Professor Ochs talks about the creation of tradition, and how new Jewish rituals are adopted and implemented in order to meet the changing and evolving needs of people from generation to generation. With this book fresh in my mind, when I saw this verse it immediately made me think about this as an example of how the people, while sticking with the core value of believing in and sacrificing to God, moderated the ritual in order to have it resonate with them in a way that made sense. There are any number of reasons that they may have preferred the high places to the Temple – maybe they were more accessible, since the people were spread out from Jerusalem by that stage. Maybe it felt more resonate to be closer to nature, or on high ground closer to heaven. Maybe they wanted more autonomy over their practices than the priests and the Temple allowed for. Regardless of the reason, this is demonstrative that the instinct to adapt and modify and create new traditions is ongoing, and it’s amazing to think how we’ve been able to retain our culture over the generations, while allowing for and even embracing these nuances.

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