The month of Elul begins now. The final month of the calendar, it is a month that symbolically prepares our souls for the coming High Holy Days. It is a time of introspection, of often looking at where this now fading year has taken us; of our own growth, of what we have gained and what and who we have lost. It is Judaism saying to us that the great “wild card” of time is again making its presence felt and, in that reality, we are being asked to examine who we are and who we wish to be.
Perhaps few years will bring these powerful questions home more than this year. One can make the argument that not only will our souls be judged, but also the society that we live in.
I have no doubt that countless colleagues will preach in various themes associated with the psycho-social transitions that we all face. The on-going question of “what can I do” will ring true for many, regardless of one’s theological or political affiliation. These are challenging times. Everything seems to be in flux, because, to be truthful, it is! Many of us will come to synagogue or meet in small groups and try to figure much of this out. But where to begin? Let me suggest that as we begin the process turning and renewing our souls and lives that we remind ourselves of some of the basic values of Jewish life. The belief in human dignity, the need for acts of kindness and a basic respect for all people, even those with whom we disagree. This is especially keen for the of us who become more conscious of our own aging. We see in the passage of another year more clearly the reality of mortality. That alone often makes us think that, in the end, it is the spiritual aspect of life that takes center stage. By that I mean the power and centrality of relationships, the importance of family and the desire for and the need for intimacy and love. It is lonely out there.
Another thought. We have mentioned before the need for a revolution in aging. Boomers have with us a huge reservoir of life experience. Human and spiritual capital that often goes untapped. In this world of chaos and concern, perhaps it is time for a new movement of elders to ban together to exert influence, impact and caring to the society at large. Do we need a sort of elder spiritual service corps? Not a corps devoted to finding second career jobs; there are several of those already. But a spiritual corps of elder who, by the force of their existence, speak to the spiritual needs of our society. It is the Hebrew word “dogma”, or example that rings so true here, for by our deeds will our children and grandchildren understand how to build and maintain a society. My sense that quietly, in all corners the world, such actions exist. Is it time to be responsible elders and raise this to a more comprehensive level. We see all too much of activity and words that defame and dishonor. Do we not have a responsibility to the future to set the example by acting on deeds of kindness? Elul is the time begin as we await the call of the shofar.
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.