Wisdom of the ages, from young and old alike

Wisdom of the ages, from young and old alike

MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services, is coordinated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ with support from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. CARES brings together professionals and lay leaders from MetroWest agencies that provide services to older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency presents an educational column on an eldercare issue. This month’s column is presented by the Joint Chaplaincy Committee whose mission is: “To provide quality, comprehensive, and professional spiritual/pastoral care and chaplaincy to the frail and elderly within our community.”

As we open the books of our lives in these days of reflection we can appreciate the many facets of daily living. The whole season is one in which we reassess and evaluate relationships. We visit, we connect, and we reconnect. Traditionally, this is a season of reflection, renewal, and reconnections. Young and old, past and future, then and now, all come together. The season is an opportunity to share stories, ideas, history, and wisdom.

This phenomenon is not unique to 5771. Intergenerational sharing is a cornerstone of Jewish living. It precedes the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and much before then as well.

Pirkei Avot, a book of the Oral Law, provides appropriate guidelines and instructions for shaping a community of people who would meet the world head on and work, live, learn, and age in a multi-faith and multi-socio-economic environment. Its job was to give instruction and guidance as to how to create an appropriate environment in which to live. In other words, what are the ingredients, values, and behaviors that help shape a neighborhood and community?

Halomed min hak’tanim…” When one learns from the young, what is he like? Like someone who eats unripe grapes or drinks new unmellowed wine from his vat….

Halomed min haz’keinim…” When one learns from the old, what is he like? Like someone who eats ripened grapes or drinks old, mellowed wine. What image do we see here? Do we see the folly of youth juxtaposed against the wisdom of the aged? Are all youthful ideas unmellowed as wine? Is all the knowledge of the elderly like ripened grapes?

Perhaps Pirkei Avot understood that true knowledge, rich neighborhoods, and strong communities blend the knowledge and excitement of youth with the wisdom and experience of the aged.

Yes, the image is appropriate. Only time can bring grapes to fullness, to golden ripeness and maturity, complete and full with all their potential goodness. Wisdom is not just amassing information. True wisdom must include intangibles: insight into human nature; a balanced awareness of the possible consequences of decisions and actions, along with the tensions and contradictions of life.

From here the text continues: “Al tistakeil bakankan…” Do not merely look at the outside, the shape of the vessel but rather “mah sheyesh bo” what is inside the vessel.

The message is clear. That is the mantra of professional chaplaincy: to meet a person, “Ba asher hu sham…” where she/he is standing at the moment. Not to impose our ideas, beliefs, or selves upon another, but rather, to meet one wherever he or she may be on their own personal spiritual journey.

Out of the text we see a picture of the generations locking hands and walking together, of young and old joined. Through the continuum of care within and between our agencies we bring this teaching to life: Do not look at the vessel but rather what is in it: new grapes, ripened grapes, unmellowed grapes, yielding sweet, semi-sweet, or dry wine. Wherever one is we will meet him/her there. Each person has her own distinct taste, flavor, and can make his own special contribution to klal Yisrael — the totality of Jewish community. We are enriched by a variety of tastes, a range of flavors, and breadth of experiences. May the new year bring sweetness, health, and fulfillment.

K’tiva hatima tova. May each of us be written and inscribed in the Book of Meaningful Life.

For more information on Joint Chaplaincy Committee and its services, contact Cecille Allman Asekoff, director of the Joint Chaplaincy Committee, at 973-929-3168 or casekoff@ujcnj.org.

Families and caregivers needing answers to broader eldercare questions and help with community resources can contact Elderlink — a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050 or elderlink@jfsmetrowest.org.

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