This is a difficult time. Once again we seem to be faced with the challenges of events taking place that we did not plan for, even expect. As the cliché goes, we have been dealt some cards that change the way we see things. Let me every honest, some of this is very personal. It is also cumulative. I am not only thinking of the Parkland killings and the horror of what families must deal with. I am also thinking personally because it was just a few days ago that I had to help bury another very close friend.
In many of the talks and sessions associated with Jewish Sacred Aging, we look at what we call the “R” factor of life. This is the randomness of our life. The impact of this, I am convinced, becomes more powerful as we get older. I think that it is because we are more aware of time and the limitations that this reality places on us. We may be able to control many things in life, yet, there is always that randomness factor that we do not expect. It is that sudden phone call that brings news that changes things. It is that random act that we could never prepare for that changes lives.
How we react to these random events does determine the type pf person we become. Of that I am convinced. Yet, there is NO paradigm, for each of us is unique and each of us reacts to these random events in our own way, based, I think, on our own past history. Some people may retreat into a shell and cut themselves off from life, while others use the event to spark activism or chart a new life course. The unknown in this is, of course, the eternal question of “why”? This is THE religious question. Science and the news can explain to us the “how” and event took place, but the religious mind asks the “why” because once we know the “how” we immediately seek to find a reason for the “why”. And that is, as many of us know, the hardest thing to do. Indeed, for many, until we know the “why”, there may be little closure or comfort.
We are overwhelmed, often, by clichés of language that seek to find a reason for why an event took place. They are nice and in some measure, do bring some comfort. But, I am understanding, or at least trying to understand, that in the end, it is each of us that must find our own answer to the “why”. I do know (and this is frightening in many ways) that as we get older, the randomness factor of life becomes more present and the reality that we cannot control it becomes more concerning. Our tradition, knowing all of this, still opts for life. It always remains true to the over-riding value of celebrating the life you have been given and celebrating each day and moment. We are reminded that by saying the “modeh ani lifanecha” (I give thanks to You) prayer as soon as we wake up. In the end, maybe that is all we can do, to give thanks that we have another day of life, to not let that gift be for nothing and to remember in life and in deed, those who are no longer physically here. I know all of this, but yet……………..
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.