I have spoken recently with numerous congregants who are caring for aging parents as well as those who face transitions in their own lives as they mature. Our Jewish textual tradition has much to say about sacred aging, and new blessings and prayers are continually created to support us as we encounter new life-passages.
The ORacle, May 2011 Issue
Jewish texts present many sides in caring for aging parents:
-Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother, that you may long endure on the land that the Eternal your God is assigning to you.”
-Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 31b-32a response to Exodus 20:12:
- The relationship of the adult child to the parent cannot become one of inverted roles, at least until it must.
- Children are also created in God’s image. Their lives cannot be swallowed up by impossible burdens created by parents.
- The commandments of honor and respect are incumbent upon children only when parents observe the commandments required of them.
- If it is impossible for the child to be a caregiver because the parent is so radically changed, the child may leave the parent in the care of others (Maimonides).
- When the parent begins to destroy the child, even in cases where the parent is not consciously doing so, the child may save himself/herself and observe the command to “honor,” by caring for the parent, by proxy.
-Leviticus 19:3, “You shall revere your father and mother.”
-Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 8b, “Show respect to an old man who has forgotten his learning through no fault of his own, for the fragments of the old tablets were kept alongside the new tablets in the Ark of the Covenant.”
These passages encourage us to consider the difference between honoring and revering one’s parents. They also lead us to consider as children, what exactly are our obligations toward our parents?
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And for those of us who are facing our own changing realities as we move out of our homes into assisted living facilities or help parents through this process, here is a Blessing on the Occasion of a Life Transition.
Eternal God, Source of all life.
Thank You for giving me life.
Thank You for guiding my way,
And for helping me adjust to the changes in my life.
Help me mourn the losses I have known.
Open my eyes to new possibilities and new opportunities
for continued growth, for new relationships in my new home.
Bless my new home and watch over me.
Help my new home become a place
of comfort, connections, and community.
May You be a constant Presence
And Source of comfort in my life.
These are just a few of the many resources available. Please also be in touch with me if there are ways I can be supportive through these transitions.
- To Honor and Respect: A Program and Resource Guide for Congregations on Sacred Aging, by Richard F. Address with Andrew Rosenkranz, URJ Press.