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Forever Young?

I have a favorite afghan, knit by my grandmother during tax season (Grandpa was an accountant) in a zigzag rainbow of red and gold, black and turquoise, I have clear memories of wrapping in it as a child, and it wraps me in love and warmth still. And I have a favorite talit: I made it in a workshop run by my friend Barbara. I wrapped the fringes, chose rainbow stripes (coincidence?) and for the collar/atarah, the words I chose are the final line from the Priestly Benediction in this week’s portion. Here’s the entire 3 line blessing: “May God bless you and guard you, May God’s face enlighten you and grace you, May God’s face lift to you and give you peace/wholeness”  I didn’t think a lot about choosing this, I just really liked it, but now I think it’s like my Grandmother’s blanket, I feel wrapped in love and light when I put it on.  What blows me away about this Biblical blessing is that ordinary people are empowered to call God’s blessings upon you just because you’re “family”. Like Grandma loves you just because you are hers. Now speaking these words to my children on erev Shabbat, I wish with all my heart that they are guarded even when I’m not there, and they be granted peace.  Mother’s day was this past week, and it reminds me that the beating heart of parenthood is this fierce protective desire, and a fear too.  (More on this in August Archives:An Elephant’s faithful 100%) 
One interesting version of this blessing is a song called “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan, sung here by Joan Baez, neither of whom is young any more!

“May God bless and Keep you always, may your wishes all come true;  May you always do for others and let others do for you; May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on ev’ry rung; and may you stay forever young”

Youth – grace of body, openness of mind and heart, perhaps. We were of a generation coming of age in the 1960s and 70s that mistrusted the older generations, and hoped not to become them, like Peter Pan. In truth there is something precious in remembering the child within us. One illusion of youth, though, is invincibility and immortality. Perhaps it’s what Adam and Eve lost in the garden, this illusion. But there is a grace and beauty in aging and perhaps even in facing our mortality. In the move Troy, Achilles says the gods envy this about us:

All I know is that when threatened by age’s infirmities, and loss of time, a sense of urgency can prod us to make it count, to find meaning in small and large gifts and acts. So maybe grownups need that blessing as much as kids.

Debbie Friedman in “Youth Shall See Visions” (1981, quoting from the prophet Joel) Sings “childhood was for fantasies, for nursery rhymes and toys… when I grew up I came to know that life was not a game; that heroes are just people that we call another name;…I cannot have a future ’till I embrace my past; I promise to pursue the challenge, time is going fast; And the old shall dream dreams, and the youth shall see visions; and our hopes will rise up to the skies; We must live for today, we must build for tomorrow, give us time, give us strength, give us life.”

So the blessings of the Torah are for all of us, young and old, and I’m not sure if I agree with Bob Dylan, that we should add “forever young” to those blessings. What do you think?

Final link is Peri Smilow’s beautiful melodic version of the blessings:


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