I don’t see the purpose of Judaism’s ritual as to keep us grounded in this world. I believe, rather, it is to enhance our experience of freewill. In other words…
God could have created us as angels – pure spiritual and enlightened beings with no attachment to this world at all. If the sole purpose of 70 years in this world was to achieve enlightenment, then why not just make us enlightened in the first place? Judaism believes, rather, that this world has a different purpose, that of an opportunity to use freewill and become independent beings who are able to experience the formless from a space of our own existence, rather than simply become a mindless (or even mindful) and homogenous ‘part’ of the overall formless reality. I believe that God’s wisdom decreed this to be the most meaningful way for beings to experience the Divine. I don’t claim to understand it fully, but I do believe it is the way our world has been set up.
So a world of form is a world in which we can choose our own enlightenment. But the more form, the more choosing. Sitting on a mountaintop and meditating requires a very limited amount of freewill. The independence achieved will be commensurately limited. Engaging in this world fully, however, whilst retaining and maintaining and even developing enlightenment is where the real prize lies. As a result, Judaism believes, God has made it such that the true and deepest enlightenment (yes, I know it’s counter intuitive and perhaps even paradoxical) is to be found within the form rather than in disengaging from it. Torah and Jewish ‘ritual’ (I don’t like that word because it implies that the act itself is meaningless which is not the case with Torah’s ‘rituals’) represent the form that will most lead us in the direction of the formless.
But here’s the rub – all of that is only true as long as the formless remains the goal and the meaning of the ‘ritual’ is understood. If, however, the ritual itself becomes an end rather than a means, or if it remains a means but the end becomes something other than the formless, then the ritual will indeed be meaningless and empty and point in the wrong direction – back to the personal mind and this illusory world.