With this week’s double Torah portion “Mishpatim/Shekelim” we enter the world of law. The drama of Sinai is over and the gradual evolution of law within Torah begins. In the portion “Mishpatim” however, is a little verse that offers us a glimpse, I suggest, into a large truth; that of learning by doing. In Exodus 24: 7 we read that Moses took the book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people who then , with one voice, responded “na’aseh v’nishmah”. Some translations have this response as all that God has spoken “we will faithfully do”. Other translations have that phrase as “we will do and we will listen”, listen in the sense of understanding. The Etz Hayim, the Torah commentary of the Conservative movement, notes a Midrash that says “the angels were so impressed with this show of faith that they came down from heavan and placed two crowns on the head of each Israelite, one for doing (“na’aseh”) and one for obeying or seeking to understand (v’nishmah”).
A lesson for us Boomers seems to be clear. We have lived a bit, have experienced life and, as such, have gained, we hope, some wisdom, some understanding. Indeed, by “doing” life, we have come to understand certain truths that can only be learned by living life. In living life, we have built up, what some scholars call, “spiritual capital”, which I take to mean a reservoir of life experience. What we often see now is the desire of Boomers to start to “give back” to society and others. Our legacy is becoming more important to us. Our life experience is of a value that is priceless. I recently interviewed Marc Freedman of Encore.org, an organization that focuses on developing “encore” careers for Boomers, usually in situations that allow that life experience to be of great use.(1) He commented at length on the value of using that life experience, that spiritual capital, for the creation of good; often via inter-generational efforts. As we live longer and experience more, how wonderful it can be to have the ability to share that experience with the younger generation. This is also a way to model successful aging by establishing meaningful relationships with younger people, relationships that teach that by doing, you wil come to understand what is meaningful and important in life. “Na’aseh V’nishmah” We will life and experience so that we and others may understand life’s beauty and truths.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min
(1) Boomer Generation Radio program Tuesday Feb 10, 2015. wwdbam.com and look for pod cast to be posted on www.jewishsacredaging.com