Shanah Tovah Umetukah!
By Jo Strausz Rosen
As the Days of Awe approach, I find myself reminiscing, as I do every year, about my parents. I remember us all living under one roof, attending High Holy Days at Temple Emanu-El, and of course, getting new clothes to welcome the New Year. The pomp and circumstance of the Holiday conjures memories of my Rabbi wearing his “dress whites” and the special bonus choir in white robes and everyone in the congregation wishing each other “Shanah Tovah.” I felt the presence of Gd in the sanctuary and in myself. Spirituality was always in me, and I was and still am a believer in Hashem.
My belief has inspired me to be a lifelong learner. And years later, as I studied to become an elder, I uncovered The Elder Creed, written by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: “An elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still with potential and whose life continues to have within it promise for, and connections to, the future. An elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy, and pleasure, and his or her birthright to these remains intact. Moreover, an elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work it is to synthesize wisdom from long life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.”
This Creed informs both my life and my work at JSL. As we move through the cycles of our lives, experiencing dramatic changes and learning about ourselves every day, it’s so helpful to recall milestones we have accomplished and pieces of ourselves that connect us to each other, such as our childhood holiday memories. We can say I experienced friendship, a home and family, a useful career, and I grew in maturity over a life span. If I encountered sorrow and suffering, I bore these burdens and through them, I grew inner strength. I did something heroic. I became and are becoming a wise elder who is creating my own personal legacy.
So, with this Jewish New Year, 5783, let’s find ways to learn and grow closer to one another and ask each other for help to build our legacies and live our best lives together in peace. We can ask the deep questions and listen to each other respond. We can ask, “What were some significant moments and events in the different phases in your life? “Who were the people who guided and influenced you?”
Milestones, like the holidays, help frame our memories. Through these questions, we can help each other recover incomplete memories that bring illumination to our growth. We can use the memories to work on forgiveness and letting go of difficult outcomes. And through this process, we can mine the past for clues to the mysteries that make us who we are. We can look back on the cycles of our lives and discover how parts of ourselves are related to the whole. We are always learning. When we look at the significant turning points in our lives, we can ask ourselves and each other, what gives meaning to our lives?
I can tell you that along with my purposeful work and dear friends, it is my loving family, my children, their spouses and 4 delightful grandchildren (and grand dogs) who bring immense meaning and endless pleasure to my life and continue to enrich me in every way. Brody, the first grandchild, ever a Mensch, will become a Bar Mitzvah on the sacred Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He is living and learning and telling his own story, making important choices, and teaching us all along the way. I am so fortunate to witness his growth and I am immensely proud to say we are close kin. If we listen and learn from the children in our lives, we grow and flourish. Children teach us to feel our feelings, be curious and excited, be fearless and grow a little every day.
May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year!
Shana Tovah U’metukah and Shabbat Shalom