Many of the people with whom I am friends know, in some way, that I am a sports fan. It is a wonderful escape, some measure of therapy and, without trying to sound too glib, an interesting way to gather life lessons. In thinking about this Yom Kippur, I was struck by an aspect of sports that, I think, has direct application for many of us–especially as we get older.
I was watching my Phillies recently and was taken by the fact that a rookie player, who had enjoyed a month of raging success, was now mired in a several week slump. His batting average was tumbling. As the announcers stated, the pitchers had caught up with him and, for him to get back to success, he needed to make adjustments. The insight, common to the ebb and flow of sports, for some reason hit me as life lesson. All of us go through life having to make adjustments. Nothing in life ever stays the same, we are always in the process of making adjustments to new life situations. Even the concept of “process” gives us pause, for the word implies movement, direction and , we hope, growth.
So many of us will be in synagogues these days, often reflecting on the year that has gone and wondering what the new year will bring. We know, and are reminded by the prayer “Unetaneh Tokef”, that there is so much that we cannot control. Looking backward to last year, all of us have changed. Many of us have had to adjust to new circumstances, some of our choosing and some as a result of the randomness of life. How did we adjust to those changes? What strengths did we call on to manage those adjustments? And now we look ahead to this new year of 5778. Some of the adjustments will be as a result of wonderful new opportunities. Some we cannot even imagine now. How will be respond? What will be our choices? And some of these adjustments will be forced upon us by less than ideal circumstances; illness, loss, death. No doubt many of us will consider some of these adjustments as we attend Yizkor services on Yom Kippur and welcome again the souls of those we have lost.
How will we choose to change in this new year? So much is unknown as we gather for Kol Nidre and as we contemplate our own life and death as the “gates begin to close”. One thing IS certain, life IS a series of adjustments to an ever changing menu of options and circumstances. The Torah readings for Yom Kippur provide guidance to creating a secure foundation upon which to base our own changes. Choices for holiness and choices that honor the values of life and family and community serve as that embrace. Yet, in the end, as it always does, how we adjust to our changing life circumstances rests mainly with us.
Many months ago we reprinted a small meditation that looked at what we hope for in our second half of life. We include this in the workshop on new rituals. I want to offer it to you again as a meditation for Yom Kippur. It speaks to the need to, in many ways, adjust to the changing life circumstances that many of us now face as we age. It is a call to celebrate our own souls, growth and life. It was given to me by someone who attended a workshop on rituals and is from the magazine Shambala Sun (2000) and is attributed to Mark Gerzon. Its’ message rings very true for us as we gather to reflect and consider what we wish for 5778:
“The Second Half of Our Life”
In the second half of our life we yearn for wholeness
We yearn to remember the parts of ourselves that we have forgotten,
to nourish those we have starved,
to express those we have silenced, and to bring into the light those we have cast into shadows.
We yearn for the parts of ourselves that have been in the dark to find sunlight, and those that are sunburned
to find shade.
We yearn for the parts that have been undeveloped to grow, parts that have been silent to speak
and those that were noisy to be stilled.
We yearn for the parts that have been alone to find companionship,
and those that have been overcrowded to find solitude.
We yearn to live our unlived lives.
Wishing you a year of joy, peace, and health
Rabbi Richard F Address