Welcome to the new Torah reading cycle. With the conclusion of the Holidays, we begin again our annual journey of discovery. We are at Creation; and it is “good”. This Torah portion is a semester worth of issues on its own. Creation and the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve and our confrontation with mortality and the morality play of Cain and Abel.
In the workshops and classes we have taught this year something emerged that was surprising and encouraging. Obviously the majority of those we worked with are over 50 years of age. There has been a huge leap in the desire on the part of our cohort for serious study, especially in light of the pandemic. It is as if many are coming to the realization that at this stage in our lives, with everything that we are involved with in our lives, we seek a spirituality that speaks to the challenges and joys of maturity. We seek a mature spirituality.
This is what we wish to discuss as we begin Torah with Genesis and Creation. The question is how can we create a Judaism that speaks, in adult terms, to the issues that we deal with. Do we need miracle stories or super-natural wonders? Or do we seek a faith that speaks to our life issues, speaing to the tensions and choices that all of us face and how our tradition can inform us to make choices that santcify life?
So a few questions to ask as we begin with Creation:
- Do you believe the words you pray in the prayer book?
- If not, what or whom do you worship?
- What brings you joy and meaning now within your Jewish experience?
- As we age, and the reality of mortality becomes clearer, how do we create a faith that affirms, challenges and supports us in these transitional phases of life?
- Can these issues be best handled by re-inventing age specific chavurot?
Spirituality is a highly personal thing. It is really the way each of us choose to translate the teachings and values of Judaism into our every day lives. It is, as a professor of mine once said, “theology walking”. So what would you “create” as part of your mature spiritual foundation? Do we need an emphasis on sin and repentance or an emphasis on compassion and sacred relationships? Do we desire a worship experience that challenges us intellectually and spiritually?
There is a growing creativity within segments of the Jewish world now. It is a creativity that, we suggest, is based on a maturing desire to elevate texts and traditions from myth and superstition to meaning. We have a long tradition of searching for meaning. Now in our society, as we create a new American Judaism, we are being the given the choice of what kind of Jewish community we will create now, and leave to the next generations. This week’s Torah portion is the perfect time to begin this journey of creativity. It is a perfect time for congregations and organizations to create think tanks, listening campaigns and the like to encourage and support new ideas for what it may mean to grow and embrace sacred tradition: a tradition that has survived through the ability to adapt and innovate.
Let me invite you, if interested, to share some of your ideas. If you wish, feel free to send to us at: RabbiAddress@JewishSacredAging.com
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.