Judaism through its calendar of celebrations and focus on doing Mitzvot yields a system for adding life to your years. The ritual observance system is designed to remind us that each day and each moment is unique. As much as our schedules seem to be dominated by repetition, conducive to dulling the senses, resulting in time seeming to go more quickly, the longer we live, Jewish celebration and preoccupation with doing mitzvah enable us to slow things down and appreciate nuances that otherwise would slip by unnoticed.
Judaism’s attention to detail encourages you to distinguish one moment from another and to see life’s preciousness throughout each day, as you presumably become wiser and more appreciative of life’s blessings with each passing year. Judaism’s focus on the details of life in this realm is an antidote to the sense of sameness and repetition that can dull the senses and make it feel as if life is moving ever more quickly as you wonder where the days and years have gone.
The Judaic system’s emphasis on counting blessings and consciously appreciating what goes well in the course of a day, far outweighing what goes wrong, is the mechanism for adding life, i.e. a context for noticing abundant blessings otherwise destined to be overlooked or taken for granted, to your years. Living in this way brings to fruition Shabbat’s purpose to use the Seventh Day to pause and revisit all, or as much as you can, that transpired in the week that ended, as a means to see how rich and full life becomes in pausing that way.
As much as we are blessed with such a system designed to make our years more precious, studies continue to emerge that belonging to such a community, i.e. choosing to attend on some kind of regular basis synagogue or church or mosque, adds years to your life. Science Daily in June had this headline:
People who attend services at a church, synagogue or mosque are less stressed and live longer, according to new research from Vanderbilt University.
“Sometimes in health science we tend to look at those things that are always negative and say, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that,'” said Marino Bruce, a social and behavioral scientist and associate director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health at Vanderbilt and an ordained Baptist minister.
The new research findings, however, are “encouraging individuals to participate in something,” he said.
According to the study, middle-aged (ages 40 to 65) adults — both men and women — who attend church or other house of worship reduce their risk for mortality by 55 percent.
While the studies do not tout one particular religious approach as better than another, the Jewish way of life, unlike the others, is particularly community-focused and based, and thereby, it would make sense that if attending any spiritual program is beneficial to one’s longevity, participation in Jewish life is especially conducive to adding years to life.
I am reminded of a wonderful book published years ago on life in the European Shtetl, rural zones where Jews had self-contained governance midst an exclusively Jewish population (think Anatevka of Fiddler on the Roof); the book was appropriately named Life is with People and presented a nostalgic look at the best of life in such typically harsh conditions. The message in that book is that no matter how difficult life may be, it is easier when you are not alone and can share both the burdens and the joys with others, as well as the strength that comes of sharing values of caring and responsibility.
As you go through the quieter time of year, at least in the Jewish calendar, seemingly reflective of the nature of summer in contrast to the other seasons, ask yourself how you could enrich both your life and your years by choosing to share more time in your community.
With B’nai Israel preparing for the upcoming year, reflective of new energy and levels of participation from newer people coming on board, consider the opportunity to add life to your years, and years to your life by elevating your commitment and dedicating yourself to increased involvement in this special community of people that choose to make CBI their extended family home.