Chag Sameach. Shavuot arrives at this stage of the calendar. The festival of first fruits/harvest that was linked, in tradition,, to the Sinai revelation and thus, a holiday/festival that celebrates the Torah. For some, it is steeped in the idea of Divine revelation and for others, it is a honoring of the concept of Torah in our life. Many interpretations, all valid, all pointing to the centrality of Torah in Jewish life. For our age group, there can be another very powerful interpretation attached to this festival It is one that really has come to me in recent months, and was brought home again with the recent visit to my friends in London. (see last blog).
A popular Midrash from our tradition says that we were all,symbolically, present at Sinai. In thinking about that for our generation, it occurred to me that the power of that Midrash is that, no matter where we are or were or will be, there is this kind of mystical connection between all of us. Indeed, one of the more popular “sports” when we travel or meet someone new is “Jewish geography” which inevitable finds its way into the fact that, often, there are only 3 degrees of separation in our world. Connections are so vital to our life. Yet, what is one of our great challenges as we get older is that so often, many of those connections disappear. Managing our own aging is sometimes the challenge of managing the lessening of the circles of connection that engage us. As relationships and circumstances change, sometimes those connections do as well, and that becomes a major issue. Relationships and social connection change, are gone and a challenge is how to manage and deal with those changes in a meaningful and positive way, for there is a danger in allowing those changes to take over our life and that is self destructive.
Study after study has shown that social relationships are more vital than ever as we get older. It is no secret that one of the reasons is that so many relationships and connections change so much as we get older. That is why it is so imperative for congregations to make sure that no one is isolated or alone. In my travels for Jewish Sacred Aging I keep running into the fear, expressed by so many, of being isolated and alone. Look at the stories of “successful aging” and you will find people who continue to be engaged and challenged. This is one of the great challenges for our society. As the numbers of aging Boomers surge and personal and family dynamics change (as they will), how shall we stay connected to friends (old and new), community and the world. Perhaps the symbolism of Sinai, of a sense of eternal connection, can encourage communities to make sure that social connections are continually evolving.
Have a great festival and Mazel Tov to all who will celebrate a Confirmation.
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.