While writing this blog, I was listening to a music tribute on Israeli radio to the late Israeli songwriter, Naomi Shemer. I have always loved her song, “Al Kol Eleh,” (“For All These Things”). And as I have gotten older, its lyrics resonate more than ever.
Al hadvash ve’al ha’okets. Over the honey and the stinger,
al hamar vehamatok Over the bitter and the sweet
shmor eyli hatov. My God, watch over what is good.
As baby boomers approach midlife, we are on the threshold of many life changes, bitter and sweet. Whether it’s facing retirement or an empty nest, reaching a milestone birthday, moving to a new community, welcoming a new grandchild, or losing a loved one, these personal transitions can often be emotionally difficult.
If the statistics are accurate, our life expectancy is longer than that of previous generations. At the same time, boomers don’t see ourselves as “aging.” After all, having grown up in a youth culture, we pride ourselves on our hip, active lifestyle and perceive ourselves as much “younger” than our parents were at the same age.
The harsh reality: Sooner or later, whether we like it or not, boomers can anticipate changes in their lives. And for better or worse, will we be ready to cope spiritually with the lifecycle challenges that we are bound to face?
For some boomers, the synagogue is the spiritual home where they find comfort. Others are on a lifelong quest for spiritual growth, while some boomers are just beginning their spiritual journey or seeking a new path.
In any case, here’s what I’d like to suggest: Why not tap into Jewish ritual as a way to acknowledge those special personal moments and lifecycle transitions? And if you think ritual is just for the religiously observant, it’s time for a reality check. Depending on your comfort level and background, rituals can incorporate Hebrew and English prayers or simply music, meditation, and reflection.
I, for one, have always loved the traditional Jewish rituals associated with Shabbat, holidays, and daily life. In recent years, though, I have come to appreciate how new, contemporary Jewish rituals can also imbue or lives with holiness.
When a friend moved to Newbridge on the Charles this past spring, this life transition was acknowledged with a special ceremony at our synagogue’s minyan, her longtime spiritual home. As for myself, it was empowering to mark a milestone birthday with an original, personal ritual accompanying immersion in the mikveh at Mayyim Hayyim.
No matter your level of practice or religious observance, ritual can provide a meaningful spiritual path for personal renewal, healing, and transformation.. Ritual can help you connect or re-connect to the Jewish community, show appreciation for life’s blessings, reflect on personal troubles, and mark new beginnings or significant transitions.
My advice to fellow Jewish boomers. If Jewish ritual is part of your life, why not expand your practice. And it’s all new to you, it’s never too late to start.
Hear the chorus of Shemer’s “Al Kol Eleh:”
Al kol eleh, al kol eleh, Over all these, Over all these
Shmor nah li eyli hatov God please watch over them for me,
Al hadvash ve’al ha’okets Over the honey and the stinger
Al hamar vehamatok. Over the bitter and the sweet
Change is inevitable. Ritual can empower you to face the music, both the bitter and the sweet. Why not give it a try?
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