Talmud this Shabbat: Do Not Cast Us Off As We Grow Old


“Do not cast us off as we grow old; When our energy wanes do not desert us.”

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy

How do we approach the season of our life where there is much more in our past than there will be in our future? When we are in those later chapters, is it possible to live with joy, lightness, happiness, purpose, impact? How do we not get weighed down by the heaviness of mortality?

In this week’s Talmud class, we will read our last Elizabeth Strout story, Friend, in which Olive wrestles with how to wrest joy and meaning out of her last chapter:

But it was almost over, after all, her life. It swelled behind her like a sardine fishing net…the billion streaks of emotion she’d had as she’d looked at sunrises, sunsets, the different hands of waitresses who had placed before her cups of coffee— All of it gone, or about to go.

Olive shifted slightly in her seat…(p. 288)

On Shabbat we will do three things:

We will explore the story Friend for any insights it yields on how to think about and live out our own later chapters.

Because it is also Shabbat Shira—a time to think about how Jewish music and song convey our deepest questions and aspirations—Elias will join us to chant the lines of the High Holiday liturgy in which we confront our own mortality. His father passed. His aging mother lives in Buenos Aires. How does he think about these lines as he utters them in our holiest season?

We will explore a companion text from the prophet Zecharia. Zecharia sees our last chapter very differently from the way many of us, and our parents, live ours.

See you on Shabbat!
Wes