Introduction by Craig Taubman
Jewels of Elul Vol. VI, The Art of Beginning Again is, as in past years, a compilation of 29 Jewels from a remarkable collection of extraordinary and diverse people. But this year, I believe that the Jewels need a caveat.
You see, the word “beginning” is generally associated with “new” and “new” is often linked to “young”. We turn to Botox, plastic surgery, pills, potions and infomercials in search of the fountain of youth. Younger is better, stronger, more valued. This bothers me.
Initially, I thought it might be my own discomfort with the aging process. Perhaps I was jealous, exhausted or maybe I was simply feeling less relevant. But, I’ve come to believe that our fixation with youth is a form of self-loathing on a massive scale. The more we overvalue the young, the more we undervalue ourselves. Where is our thirst for wisdom, our respect for tradition? How can we have a future if we have no regard for the past?
And so, the caveat: These 29 Jewels about “Beginnings” are not about NEW! They are not about YOUNG! They are about the challenge and courage and triumph of attempting fresh starts at any age. They are about learning from experience to improve ourselves. They are about looking honestly at where we belong in the great continuum of life and deciding how to make the best contribution we can.
They are about acknowledging where we come from, respecting where we are, and having faith that our future is a blessing waiting to unfold.
I invite you all to join in this quest . . . old, young and all ages in between.
Forward by Rabbi David Wolpe
In his youth the great scholar Rabbi Hayim of Volozhin was an indifferent student who decided to abandon his studies and go to
a trade school.
On the night he told his parents of his decision, the future Rabbi had a dream. He saw an angel holding a stack of beautiful books. "Whose books are those?" he asked. “They are yours,” answered the angel, “if you have the courage to write them.”
There is no end to beginning. Rabbi Akiba did not start to learn until he was forty, yet he became the most renowned of all the talmudic sages. Immanuel Kant, perhaps the greatest philosopher of the modern age, began writing the books on which his fame rests in his fifties. Grandma Moses began painting in her seventies; one of her canvases, "Fourth of July," hangs in the White House.
“To grow old”, wrote Martin Buber, “is a wonderful thing if we do not forget what it is to begin again.” We cannot do everything, but there are an infinite number of things we can still do. At each moment in life, youth, middle age, old age, the world drops fruit at our feet.
At the end of Wordsworth's long autobiographical poem, "The Prelude," he sums up: "What we have loved/Others will love, and we will teach them how." At every age there is loving and teaching others to love. With those possibilities, how can one speak of ending? In this booklet you will find old and new loves, and learn from them.
David Wolpe is the rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. www.sinaitemple.org