By Judith Rontal, MHWOW Host, Washington D.C.

Routines rule our life. We brush our teeth each morning, buy the same grocery staples every week and try and squeeze in a workout before we repeat everything the next day.

During the most recent MHWOW retreat in the foggy hills of Los Angeles, more than 30 hosts from around the country came together to learn from each other about the communities we’ve built in the places we call home and how to incorporate Judaism into our routines.

Ritual, on the other hand, is an important part of Judaism that very often gets mistaken for routine or forgotten about altogether.

Ritual is an act that stems from intention – lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday night, traveling a bit farther to your favorite bagel shop for brunch with your closest friends, or even purposefully staying in on Sunday evening to make dinner with your roommates.

Ritual has purpose, which is something I left the MHWOW retreat with and strive to incorporate in all of my future MHWOW programs. Our weekend was filled with purpose and intention – discussions about who we are and where we feel connected in our communities, Shabbat prayers led through the construction of a Moscow Mule, and in the friendships we created in a group of unfamiliar faces. We each brought our own rituals and traditions to the weekend, focusing on self care and leadership to inspire each other.

We left feeling inspired to not only continue what we are doing but push ourselves to seek more. For some, that meant doing an activity beyond the familiar Shabbat. For others, that might be reaching out to new communities and looking for ways to make them part of their events. For me, that means bringing Jewish values and practices into my activities in alternative ways.

In addition to holiday rituals and prayers, I want to look at why they are there, what they stand for and how I can push myself to understand the meaning behind each ritual I practice so I don’t mistake it for routine.

I left the weekend with a revitalized focus on myself, my communities I am a part of and the belief that there are many more ways and people I can engage with in my city.

To anyone out there hosting, you are doing so much for yourself and building your community. I congratulate you and encourage you to look both outwards and onwards – explode the why, the where and most importantly the who you are connecting as a MHWOW host.