Ritual is important in most societies and ours is no exception. There is the ritual of prayer (three times a day), the ritual of Shabbat, the strict rituals revolving around food, festivals and walking on the cracks in the pavement (OK, there's nothing in the Talmud about walking on the cracks in the pavement, but there is a passage on just about everything else).
You would think this would be enough for anyone, but most of us add an extra layer of ritual to our lives.
I am a prime example of this. Since my divorce, two years ago, I have been popping over to put my children to bed on two nights during the week. On those occasions, an entire bath-and-bedtime ritual - complex and arcane enough for inclusion in the Mishnah - has developed which becomes more involved with every passing month (and interestingly is completely different from the bedtime routine when they come to stay with me at weekends).
It goes something like this. Lucy (8) and Alex (5) have their bath together. At the end of the bath, I announce that the first one out of the tub gets the warmest towel, at which both children jump out of the bath, often soaking me in the process. The unsuccessful child, invariably Alex, then attempts to "barbecue" himself by turning in circles next to the radiator like a human rotisserie.
When dry, the children throw their towels over my head while I ritually shout at them to put their pyjamas on.
I read the story once with 'funny bits' and once without
Then it is "book time". I am handed a storybook which I am required to read twice - the first time for Lucy's benefit "with funny bits" which involves me inserting words like "sausage", "slippers" and "potato" into the text at random moments to much hilarity. Then I am compelled to read the same story again, without funny bits, for Alex.
Then comes the climax of the bedtime routine - the stair hug. Lucy climbs to stair three on the landing and falls into my arms like a dying swan. I successfully catch her (on most occasions) and carry her into her bedroom where I proceed to spin her round at frenetic speed for some seconds before propelling her, and myself, on to the bed, at which Lucy informs me how dizzy she feels and I concur.
I give her a hug and a kiss and then leave the room, where I find Alex waiting on the same stair. He jumps into my arms, I carry him into Lucy's room, twirl him around exactly twice before announcing "whoops, wrong room". I carry him into his room where I am compelled to bounce him up and down on the bed 13 times (and once for luck) before tucking him in. He then asks me how much I love him to which the only correct answer is "infinity" per cent.
The children then go to "sleep" which involves playing loudly in the rooms until they (or I) pass out.
As in the Jewish religion there are occasional variations. If someone shouts "family hug", we all have to gather for a cuddle on Lucy's bed. Then there is the post hair-wash routine which involves… yes, I know, it's silly - almost as silly as wrapping straps of leather around your arm daily or throwing bits of bread into the river once a year.