Chag Sameach! The festival of Sukkot is upon us and with it, the symbolic Sukkah, Lulav and Etrog and the sweetness of what was, in the agricultural beginnings of our people, a symbol of harvest. This week long celebration, which culminates in the festival of Simchat Torah, speaks a variety of messages to today’s world. Congregations will look to the issues of ecology and our ties to the land as well as our annual completion and immediate beginning of Torah. This festival, in our day, in many ways continues the themes of creation and new beginnings that we saw during the High Holidays.
For us, this festival also does speak to the meaning of harvesting our own life’s work. This is a time to look out at the now dawning year and try and place our own life into perspective. It is a time to reap the accomplishments and joys as well as the sorrows of our past and to re-dedicate our time to a positive and challenging future. It is a time to celebrate life and living. What is so amazing to me as I travel for Jewish Sacred Aging® is that so few congregations actually create opportunities for people to do this. They complain that Boomers may be leaving, yet, do little to enhance our staying. To that end , let me suggest that our congregations create an opportunity for people to celebrate reaching a certain age. It may be 60, or 70 or 80 or whatever; but why not try an create such a moment that celebrates the accumulation of life experience.
What would it look like? As we have discussed in our New Rituals workshop, take a cue from a woman from one of our congregations who worked with her rabbi to create a ritual called a Simchat Hochmah–a celebration of wisdom. She did this at a Friday night service, on the bima. Look at the language and think about bringing such a “celebration” to your congregation or community. The text, in great part, reads:
“River flight and truth, You have sustained me these many years and bought me to this place in my life’s journey. Let me look out with wisdom, from the high ground of my years and experiences, over the terrain of my life. Let me gaze out toward the past and future with a heightened sense of Your presence as my Guide. Let me see that growth is not reserved for any one season, and that love and fulfillment are not the exclusive provinces the young.
As today I celebrate my life’s continued unfolding, I am awestruck by the wonder of my being. And so I pray that kindness and compassion may be on my lips, that strength and courage may be with me in my comings and goings, and that I may continue to learn from and to teach those dear to me.
O God my Creator, as You are the first and the last, may my life ever be a song of praise to You. We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the Universe: You give Your wisdom to flesh and blood. Amen.”
Rabbi Richard F AddressS
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.