Revisiting the Life Cycle as a Process of Covenant
"Let's revisit the stages of the life cycle, not through the prism of each Jew's individual life, but through the Process lens of covenant and connection:
"• Birth: The covenant has the capacity to be self-renewing, to begin again. Each individual Jew is an opportunity to get it right, to launch afresh, to enter the world with wonder, new eyes, and a clean slate. Each Jewish baby is an embodiment of covenantal hope, of the audacity of a dream in the flesh. Brit milah and simhat bat are opportunities to dance the newest expression of covenant into the world, to hurdle the story of the ancient Hebrews that much further into the future.
"• Adolescence: Surely the weakest link in the chain of continuity is that moment when children realize that the Judaism of their parents no longer dictates their way. Our children, emerging from the cocoon of childhood, stand in the blazing light of adulthood, deciding to fly with their own brilliant wings. Whether or not the Torah provides the wind is the fateful commitment of each adolescent, and the future of the Jewish people hinges on the treble chant of thirteen-year-olds. Bar and Bat Mitzvah are the public enactment of this fragile yet durable renewal.
"• Adulthood: Not merely internal, the Jewish people live as a flesh-and-blood people in a rough-and-tumble world. Finding a way to shine light into the world, finding a way to nurture and cherish the next generation, remains the fundamental work of a covenanted community: rearing children al pi darko, on the path they should walk — a path of justice and love. The rituals of adulthood are all affirmations of these sacred commitments, confirmation that it does, indeed, take a shtetl to raise each other and each other's children.
"• Death: Just as birth is the covenant's opportunity for renewal, death is the occasion for value and memory. As the frail, tired, and habituated move on, the covenant community has the opportunity to affirm that each person's worth is more than merely instrumental, that each Jew, each person, each living thing, expresses perpetual worth as a manifestation of God in the world. And each deceased person is eternally retained in God's mind. By escorting their remains with dignity, community, and tradition, we affirm our own place as honored, valued partners with God and with the people of Israel in the work of repairing the world.
"Imbued and infused with Torah, with covenant, the life of a Jew is a manifestation of caring and service, of connection and nurturance of becoming and belonging. Such an unfolding is surely worthy of celebration!"