By Laura Seymour
We measure our time through the Jewish year by holidays and lifecycles. These events remind us of who we are and what is important. Judaism is anhistorical religion — our holidays teach us a great deal about special and important history.
My favorite holiday, Simchat Torah, closes out the rush of fall holidays. Next in line is Chanukah. But we can keep the spirit of the holidays fresh by reading good books. And yes, as a biblioholic, I happen to have one handy.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, another terrific bibliophile and a terrific author, I might add, released a book about a year ago entitled entitled “I’m God, You’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego.” This book consists of a collection of sermons and articles Rabbi Kushner has written during his close to 30 years of being a pulpit rabbi. Though Kushner was raised in the Reform sect, his words borrow freely from Orthodox and Conservative thought as well. As I read, I cried, I laughed and I learned, all of which are the highest recommendations I can make for any book.
What struck me, in particular, were his comments about the holidays as they pertain to our history. I was also fascinated by this comment on memory and honoring the aged: Something I don’t believe we are doing very well these days. Here’s one of Kushner’s comments:
Judaism never portrays itself as young, it always portrays itself as an old man who remembers everything. To make the point, when was the last time you saw a picture or a painting of a young Jew? No such thing. It’s always an old Jew whose face is wrinkled by what he remembers. Christianity has infants, but there are no pictures of Jewish infants. When you see pictures and photos in the tourist shops in Israel, it’s generally those depicting old Jews. We reverence age and the wisdom that comes with it.
Think and talk about this quote. What does it say about us as a people? Is it true today? When you think of a Jew, what is the picture that comes to your mind? Why do you have that picture? Is it accurate for Jews today? Lots to think about between now and the next holiday.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping and Youth Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.