When you are in a place – any place – long enough, there are events that are repeated. And over time, they become like rituals and they become institutionalized.
This morning, we hosted the grandparents of our Ruth and Edward Taubman Early Childhood Center. Soon we will celebrate twenty years of that program. I mentioned to the gathering that fifteen years ago, the grandparents from the program looked like an older group. Today, looking out, I thought about how young these grandparents have become. In fact, I can now count myself in the group. Such is the nature of the passage of time.
I told them that I believe that grandparents have a unique role in the spiritual development of children. We know grandparents have a different concern for their grandchildren than their parents do. They need not be involved with the daily details, but can show concern for the larger dimensions of life. Changing diapers is not a spiritual exercise, but holding a child as we light candles or sing the Kiddush is. My grandmother gave me a sense of tradition and holiness, and a love of Shabbat and the holidays, in a way that my parents could not. Her special “touch” stays with me.
Although parents are really smart, grandparents have experience and a perspective that can only develop with time. That perspective, ironically, can also be timeless! This week our beloved Mildred Levine passed away. Her late husband Abby once said to me something I remember well. Paraphrasing, he said: “You know, aging need not mean only golf, and cards, and visits to the doctors and falling asleep at the television. Aging can also mean saging. You, as a rabbi, need to teach young people how to listen to the old.”
We always need renewal. We need to figure out how to live in a world of rapid change. We need to listen to the young and experience novel things. But we also need to listen and understand the past and its lessons. We need to respect and revere the old and the elderly. They can teach about living and dying. This is part of the richness of the human experience.
On Sunday, we will welcome and celebrate a new Torah which was a gift from Dr. Jeffrey and Barbara Feingold. It is an unusual experience that brings together the old and the new. It is a celebration of what was received and what will be passed on. It is a way of showing reverence for the past and expressing our hopes for the future. The dedication ceremony will take place in our sanctuary at 11:30 a.m.
As we return the Torah into the aron kodesh we sing chadeish yameinu k’kedem. I think we are praying that with the passage of time we hope our days will continue feel as fresh and new as they did in days of old.
May we bring renewal to our days, and may our young and old connect and learn from each other and teach each other new and old ways of being!
See you in shul.
Rabbi David Steinhardt
This column is dedicated to the memory of Rubin Shafran z”l