Happy New Year! We welcome 5769 and pray that we and our families enjoy peace and health. The Hebrew letter tet has the numerical value of nine, and so it speaks to this new year of 5769. The tet is also the first letter of the Hebrew word tov which means “good”. The simple meaning, of course, is that we are being wished a “good” year. But “good” also is important for us in the opening chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1 we are told of creation and the it was “good”, Yet, in Genesis 2:18, we are told that it is not “good” that we are alone. The context of the verse deals with Adam being given a mate, a helper, Eve, so that he does not exist alone. Yet, for us in this season, we can see so many other meanings.
Many of us deal with aging parents or with friends or relatives who may be alone. Not alone in the sense of living by themselves or enjoying periods of private time. I think the concept really speaks to the many who find themselves alone in the sense of being isolated. Indeed, the Hebrew word in the Torah for alone is l’vado and the root of the word speaks to the concept of isolation, or being cut off. How many people do we know who live isolated lives, cut off from other people, perhaps cut off or isolated from their own self.
L’vado is a powerful word and a more powerful concept that is all too present in the world in which we live. The current economic crises is one that can leave people with feelings of isolation and alone-ness. This may be accompanied by feelings of powerlessness and depression. While there may be no “cure” other than from outside sources, one way in which we as individuals and as communities can respond in a meaningful manner is to reinforce the power and presence of people and relationships.
This month, I want to mention some ideas that may help communities and individuals in working through some of these feelings in light of the current stress and strains that are impacting our society. In the Thought Pieces section and Programs/Resources section we’ve included some ideas drawn from recent publications. They are by no means exhaustive, but may help spark ideas.
It is not good that anyone be alone. May this New Year of 5769 serve as a springboard for the creation, development and enhancement of meaningful personal relationships. May the “sukkat shalom”, the “shelter of peace” be spread over all of us in peace and health.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min.
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.