This week I will celebrate a birthday. Ok, so that may not be such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Yet, this, to me, is a special one and one that has weighed on my soul for a while. I am now the same age as when my father died some thirty years ago. Why has this become so powerful? I think about it every day. On the one hand, it is the reality that I am now “that age” and have a hard time dealing with this reality. On the other hand, there is a sense of gratitude and blessing that I am alive and doing what I like to do and have the opportunity to be with people I love.
Yes, BUT, there is that time issue that keeps rumbling around in my soul. It is, as we discuss in many classes, the one thing that no matter how we try, we cannot control. And, as we get older, and celebrate significant moments, we become more and more aware of time’s passing and our place in it. I do envy the people who, when we bring this subject up in sessions, admit that they do not think about time, they live day to day and are thankful for each new adventure. Boy, do I envy them even as part of me has trouble believing them!
Yes, as many say, age is only a number. Indeed, we often discuss in classes that we have three ages: our chronological age in years, our biological age, how healthy our body is; and our spiritual age: how we feel. I am now 78, my doctor says my health is good (working out and watching what we eat is key) and I think my spiritual age is still in my 40s, ok, maybe now early 50s! Yet, those sands of time keep impacting my soul. Yes, I know that much of this maybe indulgent and strange as my work deals with aging. But the reality still comes back every day about the challenge to find meaning in the time we have left. Indeed, as we often say in classes, THE spiritual question for us as we get older is how we choose to deal with our time knowing that we cannot control the time we have left. How we choose to answer that question says a lot about each of us. Maybe that is why so many of us, as we get older, become concerned with our legacy, of what of us will be left behind and how we will be remembered.
I also know that the Jewish view of this is to be grateful for each new day and to live each day to its fullest; and I am sure that most of us try to do just that. I also know that the circumstances around my dad’s early death are not being duplicated with me. But, as each year passes and the reality of our own mortality becomes clearer, you cannot help but wonder about this mystery we call life, how it becomes more fragile and precious and how much time can impact who we are, what we wish and how we choose to live. Or, in the words of Rabbi Max Ardst: The quantity of life is in the hands of God. The quality of life rests in our hands.
Rabbi Richard F. Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.