The Torah cycle we are in now speaks of the beginnings of the journey for the Israelites from Egypt into the wilderness.
The “routine” of wondering has set in and, despite the awesome aspect of Sinai, the Israelites still find ways to be uncomfortable and challenging.
On the way to their future, there are many pitfalls and slips. Faith, it seems, can be transitory.
The Exodus motif is, according to most commentators, the paradigmatic story of the Jewish people. It is central to our psycho-spiritual DNA. It is that because it is us.
For many of boomers, now traversing a new life stage, we can easily lose faith in our own self and in our own journey, our own story. The stresses and strains of life, adult children, grand-children, to retire or not, our own aging parents and the challenges of care-giving; all of these now normal parts too often can combine to create a feeling of loneliness or exile. It is easy to fall into that trap.
On the other hand, this life stage also presents us with new possibilities for growth. These same “challenges” (or realities) can remind us as well of an ingredient in our lives that gives these transitions a context and texture that we perhaps, never quite appreciated in our youth. The power of community and the centrality of relationships carries us forward. As many of us deal with the new issues of aging, what emerges as central and powerful are the relationships that we have maintained throughout our lives. These relationships are our foundation. Our friends and family, our communities are the source of much of our strength and the conduits of meaning. They inject a sense of love into our lives. And it is this sense of love, or intimacy, or community that is the antidote to the feeling of exile or loneliness that can often overtake us.
We do live in complicated times and we do live with increasing stress and challenges. It is easy to feel cut off and, at times, as if we are in exile from our own self. However, it is our communities and the relationships within those communities that provide us with a sense of direction, purpose and soul. They lead us from exile to meaning. Cherish those relationships.
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.