“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”
I was home sick, lying on my couch, hopped up on cold medicine and for some reason glued to the TV waiting for a puff of smoke to come billowing out of the church chimney. I knew I was watching history but usually Days of our Lives or The Prices is Right takes precedence on a sick day agenda. I couldn't figure out why I was so interested in the Pope elections, but I was. Then one of the reporters used the word “tradition” and a light bulb went off -- or in this case, a white puff of smoke.
A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Traditions feel important to so many of us because they bring us comfort and safety.
But do traditions help us -- or do they hold us back?
When you look at Judaism or any other religion, it is steeped in tradition and it's often what people love most about their faith. I find comfort in the idea that no matter what synagogue I go to on a Friday night, the service will always be the same. With Passover in just a few days, I have been thinking a lot about what my parents’ traditions were, and what I will carry on with my own family. My Seder, like many of yours, included telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt from the Maxwell coffee haggadahs, eating matzo, and me as the youngest singing the Four Questions. Now that I have a family of my own, I have the opportunity to reinvent what my Seder looks like and incorporate the traditions of my past, the new things I've learned along the way, and anything else my imagination can create.
But what about traditions at work? How many times have you heard the answer, "It's how we've always done it." Sometimes that statement is about tradition -- and other times, it’s just easier to do the same thing over and over again (remember: comfort and safety). Tradition in the work place can hinder creativity and keep you stuck in the same old, same old. Think of the program or project that you do year after year: is it still bringing in the same amount of people or raising the same amount of money? Are you doing it because it's a tradition and that's how it's always been done? I'm not suggesting that traditions are always good or bad but what I do think is that we should always be aware of why we are doing something year after year. If you simply ask the question during the planning process, “are we doing this because it is truly a tradition or because it's how it's always been done”, you may avoid the pitfalls of getting stuck in a rut.
So, as we approach the Passover holiday, ask yourself: what traditions do you want to keep, let go of, or reinvent?