Celebration & Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism

By Rela M. Geffen | Go to book overview
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that is Kadosh, Holy. This is a time of my life when I create anew, with less of the old possibilities, with more wisdom in the ways of the world and my particular place in it.35

This ritual, developed by Jewish women in California in the :1980s, brings us back full circle to the words voiced nearly two millennia ago by that other Jew, Judah, son of Tema. He spoke of three decades--the forties through the sixties--as a time when the individual should strive for an increased measure of understanding, counsel, and wisdom. The women who composed the Ma'aseh Bere'shit text have captured the insights of Judah, as well as those uncovered by contemporary specialists, that midlife is paradoxically a time of loss, coupled with an opportunity for new beginnings and growth.

On many levels, the middle years hold out the promise that life will be marked by greater understanding of one's inner self, deepening commitment to counsel and care for the generations that follow, and growing wisdom to appreciate the subtleties and breadth of existence. As individuals seek to embrace these qualities, they exemplify the ways in which midlife is a time both of celebration and renewal.

Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979), p. 194.
Stanley Brandes, Forty: The Age and the Symbol ( Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), p. 4
Hayyim Schauss, The Lifetime of a Jew ( New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1950).
See for example, Sharon Strassfeld and Kathy Green, The Jewish Family Book ( New York: Bantam Books, 1981), pp. 375-395. In its both thoughtful and whimsical survey of the life cycle of the Jew, The Second Jewish Catalog, ed. Sharon Strassfeld and Michael Strassfeld ( Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1976), uses the term middle years as its table of contents heading for Bar and Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, and Leaving Home. See also Simeon Maslin, ed., Gates of Mitzvah: A Guide to the Jewish Life Cycle ( New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1979).
Judith Viorst, Necessary Losses ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), pp. 270-271.


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