One of the most famous verses of Torah leaps out at us this week. “There arose a new king over Egypt who knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). I will leave the analyses of who that new king (Pharaoh) to your Torah study session this week, but, as I was looking at this verse, and the portion, I thought about our own lives and how many times we have been met with new challenges for which we were unprepared. The name of the portion is Shemot, names; and so, I thought as to how many times in our life have we met situations in which our “name” has changed.
Let me suggest that this is quite relevant to our times now. SO much has changed in recent years and continues to change at a rapid pace. Many of us, at times, may feel that we are strangers in a new and strange land. As we get older, can we begin to make sense out of all this change and look to see how we can manage who we may be in light of this age of transition? Are we the same person that we were some years ago, or do we come to recognize that as much as the times have changed, so have we, each in our own way!
David Brooks wrote an interesting column a while back for the Atlantic. He, noted that while our own aging may include some necessary losses, “aging can involve growth and improvement—of character, perspective, and overall happiness”. Indeed, the self that we become as we age tends toward feeling positive with a more secure sense of “agreeableness” and “conscientiousness”. How many people do we know—some who may be reading this now—who have learned how to let go of those issues and concerns that bound them, and thus hold on to those things, people and ideas that provide meaning, focus and a sense of peace.
One of the constants in all of this is change This Torah portion speaks to that as we see the birth of a new generation. Change is always with us, inviting us to evolve and grow and embrace each new day with a profound modeh ani. As this new secular year dawns, with all its challenges and with all of its possibilities, may each of us have the courage to see our own self and soul grow and evolve.
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.