Parshah Noah remains one of the most famous of all Torah. The account of the flood, the dove and the rainbow, the disturbing account of Noah’s sons, the Tower of Babel; what a portion!!! Commentators have had a great time on this portion for centuries. No doubt, those of you who will go to synagogue this Shabbat will be discussing some of these interpretations. But, as I was thinking of this portion for our generation, I was struck by several comments that emerged in recent workshops that we did on the subject of caregiving.
Just this week, I was part of a series that is offered to congregations on a variety of life planning issues. My session was on what we call the “art” of caregiving. In discussion of the texts from tradition that look at this issue, several peoeple discussed the stresses and strains of being a caregiver. It brought up the image of this week’s portion, for they seemed to be flooded with emotion, stress, strain and pressure. For those of us who have, or who are, walking this walk, we know exactly what these people meant. Indeed, people do use language of “drowning” in demands and being “flooded” with pressures; of often juggling the care of a loved one, a job, family; feeling ” as if I was drowning in responsibility and loosing my own sense of self”.
A flood often goes its own way. Water seeks its own level. The demands of caregiving are personal and so there is no real paridigm. We each do it on our own way. The literature of caregiving continues to grow. We have posted numerous articles on our Jewish Sacred Aging Facebook page. Always there is the theme of how do I, as a caregiver, continue to do what is right and not lose my own self? There are physical, emotional and spirtual aspects of this challenge. More and more congregations are responding to this issue for more and more congregants are now engaged in what we call a new “life stage”. It is a stage that can last no only months, but years. Yet, it is a life stage that is, as our tradition notes, sacred work. To care for and support another person in these moments of need reflects and models the highest of values associated with our being tzelem elohim.
We survive this flood of emotion and challenge by seeking community, not fearing to ask for help when we need it and faith. We often overlook this last part, but let me suggest that it is very important and powerful. This is afaith in our own ability, a faith in the fact tha we are doing all we can in the actualizing of the mitzvah, and a faith that we are modeling a behavior for others. There is also that faith in a higher power that, we hope, helps sustain us in moments of doubt and which, we often pray, will bring comfort and peace to our loved one. Noah’s flood of this portion ended and saw the beginning again of life. How symbolic that so often, when the caregiving we are engaged in finally ends, that we find the permission and ability to move forward and begin or transition into a new phase of our own life.
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.