In the best of times, we can plan ahead weeks, months, maybe even years in advance. We know that life has its risks, but we do our best to try to account for surprises and volatility. Today, we can’t confidently say what we’ll be doing in a month, or a year from now. Living in such flux, we ought to be able to rely on the certainty of at least a few things: our family, our friends, and Temple Emanu-El to pull us through. The reason we should be able to do this goes back nearly 2000 years.
Rabbi Akiva said, “The one who studies Torah in their youth will study Torah in their old age, and the one who had students in their youth will have students in their old age” (Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 62b).
What Rabbi Akiva means with this teaching is that whatever is dear to us, whatever we make a habit, will stick with us throughout our life. Scientists know this to be true when it comes to forming and breaking habits. Whether we want to improve our mental health, physical health, or become proficient in any task, we must make it a regular part of our lives.
Our family, friends, and Temple Emanu-El will pull us through this uncertain time because we have laid a foundation in our lives early on—a foundation that will see us through this time and well into our futures. I say this from my personal experience. Having grown up at Temple Emanu-El since I was in 5th-grade, this community has been a constant and sustaining force in my life. As Rabbi Akiva says in the Talmud, what is habitual in your youth will be so in your old age. I am more than a few years from “old age,” but my practice of relying on this synagogue as my second home is an assurance that it will a part of my life for decades to come. We invest in these kinds of relationships because they enrich our good years and because they help us shoulder our burdens in tough times.
When the world seems upside down we can only turn to the most stable things to moor us to solid ground. As we finish nine weeks of social distancing, it is more important now than ever to know and lean on our family, friends, and synagogue community for the boundless love and support we have for one another.
The habits we form and the actions we take in these days will be the guiding light, the ner tamid, the eternal flame shining the way. If you ever want someone to talk to, always know that we are here.