At Hebrew SeniorLife we recognize that for many of the seniors we serve, a sense of spiritual wellbeing is just as important to transforming the experience of aging as providing good medical care and innovative supportive living communities. As the Director of Religious Services, I work with a team that is devoted to providing spiritual support to our residents, resident families, and staff that responds to a broad spectrum of secular and religious traditions.
I would like to share some thoughts as we celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, welcoming in a new year, 5774 in the Hebrew calendar. This year Rosh Hashanah begins on the heels of another celebration that we recently shared together as Americans.
Last Wednesday, August 28, was the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It is interesting and inspiring to think about these two events together.
In Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah begins a new year, and also helps keep us aware of a seven year cycle, the sabbatical year, and a fifty year cycle, the Jubilee. The sabbatical year, is the Sabbath of years, a year of rest for the land with no planting permitted, and allows the land to lie fallow (Leviticus 25, 20-21).
On the Jubilee year, all slaves were to be set free. A Biblical inscription to this effect was inscribed by the founding fathers of the United States of America on the Liberty Bell. The text reads, "And thou shalt proclaim liberty in the Land for all its inhabitants" (Lev. 25,10).
Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech reminds us that we can never stop working for liberty and freedom for people of all colors, religions, and backgrounds. One Jubilee period later, we need to renew our commitment to these same ideals that have informed our country since its founding.
Reverend King woke us up with his stirring, brilliant words, and in an attempt to wake us up, one of the customs of Rosh Hashanah is to blow on a ram’s horn, a shofar, and make a big joyous victorious noise. This sound reminds us of larger cycles in time, the jubilation of freedom, and also the need to review our actions, and commit to doing better however we can in the year to come.
These universal themes of justice and compassion bind us across generations and keep us healthy at any age both individually, within our families and communities, and as a nation.
Wishing all a healthy and happy year ahead,
Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow