This Shabbat we will read the parsha, Chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. The portion begins with Sarah’s life but focuses on her death and burial. What is amazing about Abraham and Sarah is how much they accomplished in their advanced years. Rabbi Stephen S Pearce, Ph.D, writes, “Chayei Sarah was written at a time when growing old was the exception rather than the rule. It is a narrative that bids a reader to pause and consider the prospect of aging and the personal hope that growing old will be gentle and graceful rather than severe and graceless. The text reminds the reader that Sarah was 127 when she died (Genesis 23:1) while Abraham lived to be 175 (Genesis 25:7). Both Sarah and Abraham accomplished their most significant achievements in the latter part of their lives, well past the age that would be considered feasible today.”
I think a lot about growing old these days. I certainly hope to live a long and healthy life but no one has that guarantee. And then, I think about my relatives who were blessed with longevity and what that meant for the last remaining years of their lives spent in assisted living or nursing homes. Were their days happy? Did they make friends? Were they well cared for?
Our second graders had the opportunity to brighten the lives of the residents at Sunrise Assisted Living and Memory Care and put their lessons on hospitality and caring for the elderly into action this past Sunday. Rabbi Klass joined them and shared her experience. “I was so impressed by our 2nd graders. They sang beautifully and were so respectful. We talked about what we learned from Abraham and what it means to go out to greet people and welcome them – for them, welcoming people means “being kind,” and “getting to know people you otherwise may not get to meet.” Even though some of them were shy, they each introduced themselves to residents and, as one of them wrote in a card, made new friends. Many of the 2nd graders brought their parents and younger siblings along too, and got to role model their welcoming skills for their little brothers and sisters. And the residents simply glowed. They were smiling ear to ear, clapping after each song, and one in the back belted out “bravissimo!” after their rendition of “Turn the World Around.” As we were leaving, the staff person who had coordinated the morning came up to me and, after reiterating how wonderful it had been, asked if we could come back. “They don’t even have to sing if they don’t want to, we’d just love to have them over, to say hi to our residents. They’re so happy!” That short trip across the street absolutely made my Sunday.”
Special thanks to Ms. Patty for preparing and leading theirsinging and to Linda Lepow and Jennifer Sawyer for being such exceptional teachers and arranging this experience for our students. And especially to our second graders who touched the lives of total strangers and left with new friends.