It is not a coincidence that the portion for this Shabbat, “Ha’azinu” comes to us as we move from Yom Kippur to Sukkot. This poem, found in Deuteronomy 32 is the next to last portion of the book. Moses again recounts the past and in verse 7 states one of the more famous passages. “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of ages past. Ask you fathers, he will inform yu,m your elders, they will tell you.” (32:7) Moses, in the context of the portion, is reminding the people that his statements can be validated by asking the elders, they can recount the history of the Israelites.
As the new year begins, I think this verse takes on additional meaning. As we Boomers grow older and transition into new phases of life, I suggest we become very aware of the importance of our own legacy and the legacy of our own family. Family becomes even more important, often due to care-giving concerns. It is not surprising that I know so many of our generation who have become very interested in their own genealogy. It seems those questions of “where did I come from?”, “who were my ancestors and what did they endure?” take on greater meaning. How many of us have taken great pride in sitting with grandchildren and telling the family stories? I would imagine that some of you did just that over recent holiday dinners. This is more than just quiet time with family, I think it represents a real need to connect with our past and to find our place in that past so that we can be a link into the future–a future that we may not get to.
History is an oft neglected reality. Life experience is a resource often left untapped. One of the challenges we face in our society is how to make use of the huge life experience well that Boomers have. Despite all the glowing reports of a new age of aging, there still exists an ageist point of view that pervades much of our world. One of our challenges, if we choose to accept it, is to remind our families and our community that to marginalize elders is to short circuit society as to the gifts of life experience. Longevity has made it possible to create environments of inter-generational communication and learning. Let me suggest that this is one way of understanding the words of Moses from this week’s portion. Let us remember those days of old and not fear to ask those who lived them the lessons learned.
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.