Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gains and Losses and Growth

On this birthday I thought I'd share some early photos. Can you see me in them? Even I have problems recognizing that little girl, although there are some clues that prove that both girls undeniably me.

In the black and white photo, you can see that I've got one sock up and one sock down--something of an inadvertent trademark for me in my younger days :) As for the color, dancing? I guess some things never change.......

Earlier this year I wrote about some early memories. But there's no denying that as I get older, spanning more years, there are only so many memories I can retain. Maybe that's just the way we're made, with a limited allotment of brain space for memories. When we're younger, there's plenty of room for all our memories. As we add more and more, reaching the limit of our storage space, we need to lose some of what was saved to make room for the new.

While aging brings this loss in life memories, we gain perspectives on life--perspectives that are only possible from the vantage point of years. As I wrote last week, I'm not sure it makes us see any clearer than before. But while it feels strange to say it, I do feel somehow wiser. I don't know that I act any wiser on a personal level--that's a function of an entirely different part of the brain. But there is a kind of clairvoyant aspect to looking at a person or a situation through years of experience.

Today I turn 54. Last year I questioned whether or not I was entering the prime of my life. Perhaps the key to the answer lies in figuring out what that means. The wisdom gained within needs to manifest itself without. And as I reach out to others, I can continually grow within. Most important, I must always remember that life is not about the goal, it's about the journey.

Happy Birthday to me

All best wishes joyfully accepted

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nathan the Prophet

Today was the birthday party for my friend and July 16th birthday buddy, Nathan Mass (you can read more about him here and here). But as I'm still analyzing this journey into the "elder" part of my life, Nathan is already there--in spades. Wednesday will mark his 102nd birthday.

Nathan told us that he was talking with God--" the guy up there"-- and God told him, "Nathan, it's not your time yet. I'm not ready for you just now, so keep going." I assure you this is not the ravings of a lunatic. Nathan is very present. He's quite witty and charming--and knows it. He also loves life, and this could be his way of telling us he's fine being around this long and longer.

Then again, he could actually be conversing with God. I, for one, would believe it. After all, he very well could be the one who, like Moses (who also spoke with God) , will be chosen to make it to 120.

Happy Birthday, Nathan!!
Prophet or not, I'm honored to spend time with you.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Phoenix Rising

Okay, so I'm being a bit over dramatic with the title, and the analogy is not the best since we did not rise from ashes, we chose to rebuild. But Shabbat services at Beth Sholom this morning had such great ruach--spirit--that seems to be heralding a renewal of our congregation as we find our place in the 21st Century.

It wasn't that big a crowd, about 150--after all, it is mid-July and many regulars are away. Yet there was lots of joy and singing and a generational span that for me marks the vibrancy of our community. We celebrated an auf ruf of a couple who will be married tomorrow in our sanctuary--the bride's family are long-time congregants of Beth Sholom. While there weren't a lot of teens--many are off on their summer journeys--we had a teenager read Torah with his grandfather beside him reciting the blessings. There were lots of little kids there with their families for our Munchkins and Mishpachah service.

One advantage of the summer months is that many congregants had friends and family visiting. As a bonus, we had one of our former congregants come back to visit. He and his wife left about five years ago to take a job in Atlanta. They now live in Belgium with their two little boys. Their presence added to the feeling of continuity we have managed to maintain even as we inhabit this new space.

This kahal has been through alot lately--new building, new rabbi, new aspects of our service. We continue to look out towards the changes we need to make in order to engage all who wish to join our community without shattering the ties to our past that so many find meaningful. This work will always be ongoing since the world around us is always in flux. But as in most spiritual work, it is the journey that is important, not the goal--which itself is in constant movement.

This is not something that must happen just at Beth Sholom. It is a paradigm that must be followed in the Jewish world as a whole. It is something that the Jewish people have grappled with for centuries. It is the Jewish tradition--from the rabbis of the Talmud through to our modern leaders -- to make our scriptures relevant in the world in which they live without the strong traditions that give our practice deep meaning.

Years ago, I went to a lecture by Rabbi Arthur Green where he said that each generation adds the oil from their fingers to the Torah as it passes through their hands. I believe it is that additional oil that keeps the light of Judaism alive. I like to think that with this renewal of our community, we at Beth Sholom are doing our part.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Looking Outward

I travel through the year with the Jewish sacred calendar as my guide. There are various stopping points along the way where I am reminded to look inward, checking in with myself. But when it comes to my birthday (just over a week away :) I like to look outward, checking in with the world around me. I bring up memories of the past with a perspective of the present. Some of my observations are personal; some are cultural.

This looking back is very much an aspect of age. I think up until 30 or even 40 you look forward, not back. Even those who start to feel old at 25--hard for me to imagine, but I know those people exist--are fearing what's in front of them more than lamenting for what is past. I think that the 40s brings a combination of denial and reluctant acceptance of the aging process. The 50s seem to be bringing perspective of the past that only years removed can bring. I'd like to say that it's a clearer view, but maybe it's just that we change the filters on our lens.