Last Friday night, at the end of the shul service, we had a magical moment. Two boys, Benjy and Natie Bulkin, came up to sing Yigdal. As their voices rang out in the shul, all of us there were filled with emotion. To hear children’s voices in shul again! Wow! We’re back where we belong!
As we re-establish our communities again after lockdown, the voices of children are going to play a fundamental part in rebuilding Jewish life.
It is so appropriate that in recent weeks we have been reading in shul the parashot that deal with the building of the Mishkan or Tabernacle, the temporary House of God that our ancestors built in the desert.
There were a number of items that went into its construction: Fabrics, skins, wood. Three kinds of metals were used: zahav, kesef, nechoshet – gold, silver and bronze. Our medieval commentators, the Baalei HaTosafot draw a timeless lesson from the choice of these metals that applies to us all. They tell us that they symbolize the different phases of our existence. We each have a golden, silver and bronze age.
What is your golden age? That is when your energies and strengths are at their maximum; when you can run and achieve to maximum capacity.
What is your silver age? That is when the hair starts to turn silver. You can’t run as fast, but you have more wisdom. You may not have as much strength but you have greater depth and your achievements at this stage are so much more significant in other ways.
What is your bronze age? That is your legacy. This will be what stands after you, that will inspire people who have been touched by your life.
The author David Brooks (whose work was often quoted by Rabbi Lord Sacks, zichrono livracha) writes in his book, The Road to Character, that we should not think of legacy as a matter that only preoccupies those who are in their ‘silver age’. It is something we should reflect on at every stage of our lives.
He distinguishes between what he calls your “résumé virtues” and your “eulogy virtues”. Your résumé virtues are the things you would put on a C.V. such as the skills you bring to the marketplace. Your eulogy virtues are those values that will make a permanent impact on the world. He points out that so much of our society today is focussed on creating a successful career rather than on building an inner character. Whoever we are, whatever stage we are in our lives we should think about the importance of creating those lasting values of love and loyalty, compassion and courage, integrity and empathy, together whatever else we might wish to achieve.
And so, as we re-establish our communities and as we build that House of God that is in each and every one of us, let’s reflect on those enduring values. Whether we are at the gold or silver stage of our lives, let’s direct our energies towards goals that will be of lasting value, encompassed by the values of Torah.