I am writing this after having officiated at another close friend’s funeral. This was a man, at times larger than life, whomm I met 50 years ago. Over those years we shared a lot of work, fun, some adventures, some disagreements and some quiet personal moments. He was ill these last few years, had dealt with a series of personal losses and had become somewhat frail. Yet, his death, sudden, marked the end of an era. It also triggered strange and strong emotions, not unknown to many of our generation. Time, it seems, has lost meaning. Just this morning, the wife of my closest friend called to chat about life, politics and “stuff”. We somehow got on the subject of her husband’s death, as she was commenting on the fact that she was thinking of him a lot lately. She then reminded me of the number of years that had passed since his death. Time had telescoped in my mind. That seems to be happening a lot lately.
I have no answer for all of this. It is a mystery to me. In these last 5 years, too many close friends have died. In quieter moments, I find myself trying to “make sense” out of it, trying to understand it and trying, not well I may add, to not have it impact my own sense of mortality. I have never been more aware of time passing and the fact that in no way can one ever count on the future. It unfolds as it wishes and, in many ways, we are along for the ride. And the ride is getting shorter.
Looking back, somehow, it was easier to counsel the bereaved when I was a little younger rabbi. Now, it gets a little more personal. I find myself also trying to find some sense of meaning through traditional texts. Not the funeral texts, but other sacred texts, often Torah. I keep coming back now to the interpretations of Deuteronomy 29 in which the word for “the day” (“ha yom”) is repeated and the commentators who speak of this repetition as a symbol of living in the day, in the moment. These were commentators who lived way before the Mindfullness meditation craze. They just saw that it was folly to try and change what was, impossible to know what the future will be, and that the only thing we could have any sense of control over was the now. I guess the tradition’s call to live each day as if it were our last, to celebrate the gift of life and to see blessings in the every day; is a message that seems to be more meaningful with every passing year and especially, with every passing friend.
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.