This week we begin the third book of Torah, Leviticus, and the portion that begins with Vayikra. Moses is “called”. As you may expect, there have been numerous commentaries on what it means to be “called” and who is doing the calling and how we answer that “call”. The portion mainly deals with a variety of offerings/sacrifices that involved the cultic practices of ancient Israel. In Leviticus 3 we read of the regulations regarding what is called the zevach sh’lamim, often translated as the “sacrifice of well-being”. In the Etz Hayim Torah commentary this is explained as based on the verb shin, lamed, mem, the root for shalom, which is taken as “well-being or wholeness”. Another meaning is said to be that this is a “sacred gift of greeting” which “reflects the specific role of this sacrifice as an offering made when one comes to greet God at a sacred meal” (p.593).
For many of our generation, we make this zevach sh’lamim in another way. This offering of well-being or shalom is being offered every day by people who are caregivers. Many of us are “called” to this life stage in different ways, often with no warning or preparation. Time is often “sacrificed” for this greater mitzvah. No matter where we go for our Jewish Sacred Aging® program, this issue of caregiving emerges. So many of us are or have been in this role. It really is an act of wholeness and peace to be in this relationship with another person. We offer our self, our time and often our soul to aid and assist someone. In doing so, we often feel stressed. In doing so, we often also feel a serious feeling of spiritual and person growth and fulfillment. After all, the question always lurks in the recesses of our soul, “who will care for me”?
One of the other issues that has emerged in our work has been the reality of new prayers and rituals that have been, and continue to be created that speak to new life stages. Caregiving is no exception. In two recent programs that we were involved with, we had the opportunity to share prayer for caregivers that was created by a colleague who “walked this walk”. As many of offer our self and soul to others in this modern interpretation of the Levitical zevach sh’lamim please reflect on this meditation. I think is speaks to our role as caregiver and this “offering” of well-being. This is from Rabbi Michele Brand Medwin’s book “Alzheimer’s Families: Emotional and Spiritual Tools for Coping”. Colchester Woods Press. Binghamton, NY. 2018. p. 211
Sustainer of the Universe, help me to care for my loved one with hope, courage and sensitivity. Grant me insight, resourcefulness and the ability to ask for help and to accept help when it is needed. May I find the patience to overcome difficult moments and to find meaning and purpose in the smallest task.
O Eternal God, help me to remember to take care of myself so that I may have the strength to help others. Be with me and my loved one as we journey on this path together.
May the One who makes peace in the heavens bring peace to me, to my family and loved ones and to us all.
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.