With the rapid approach of the new year, it is not unusual that we begin to think about the people who are no longer physically alive. Many of us will sit in synagogue and be reminded of the power of memory and the gift of life. Other than Passover, the Holidays bring home the cycle of life image. We turn the page of our life and do not know what this next chapter will bring. However, every once in a while we are reminded in very real terms about how the spirit of a soul remains alive.
I was given the opportunity to be part of a baby naming over Labor Day weekend. The new born granddaughter of my closest friend of my adult life was to be named at the family home in Dallas. Ellen and I have kept in touch during the years following my friend Jake’s death. Their son and daughter-in-law live overseas and the logistics of getting home were a little daunting. But they were coming and they extended the invitation to fly to Dallas to be present. I did.
Baby namings are always special. Giggles and smiles and joy always abound as new life is consecrated and a name is given. No difference with little Maya. Yet, as I drove up to the house, I was very conscious that I had company. Maybe it was a sense of closure? I do not know. I have come to believe that the souls of people who die do find their way into other new lives. As the ceremony was going on, I really did feel a sense of transition, that when Jake’s name was given as part of his grand-daughter’s Hebrew name, a part of him,a part of his essence was given a new life. Now, I have no scientific proof, there cannot be. A very wise young theologian recently advised me that she understood a sense of immortality in that she believed that the souls of people who die enter into new babies and help provide those new lives with their essence. I would like to believe that some of Jake’s sense of life and compassion is now part of his grand-daughter. This really is a Jewish view of immortality and another reason to celebrate this cycle of life.
So, we will soon turn that page of the calendar. We carry with us all that has gone before, the events, the challenges, the victories and defeats; and the people who helped us become who we are today.
Here’s to a new beginning.
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.