Tonight, the tiny hand of a young boy I had never met held my hand from above. He sat on his father’s shoulders, and I was his inclusion into the celebration.
We danced in circles around three men holding Torahs, while multiple other circles weaved around, through and in front of us, for the annual Jewish celebration of Simchat Torah.
Holding my other hand was an older man who had found an opening between my friend and me. In front of me and around, I could see faces and hear voices of the young and old joyously singing together, next to me the contagious laugh of a child as our circle alternated between different speeds.
Around me were people brand new to the earth and people who had been here for a while-and we were all celebrating together, surrounded by warmth and love and a community born out of this Jewish holiday.
As I lost myself in the dancing, I found myself among a community of people at all different stages of life.
Just yesterday, I came back from a two-week trip to Mexico City. In my time there, I celebrated a friend’s new phase of life as she went into the mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) for the first time. I danced all night at her wedding. I attended the funeral of a man who was a pillar in his community. I witnessed a mother reunited with her newborn child and a toddler meeting her new baby brother for the first time. I experienced more in 1 week than I had in four years in Boston.
In the United States, we are taught that the further you move from family and the more independent you are, the better. There is no emphasis on cross generational connections- there is an emphasis on the “I” and how can “I” do better among my peers-that is where Judaism and the United States differ.
I recently read about a new initiative to create “Millenial Villages” in Boston-communities where people from my generation can live together in dorm-like housing, separated from other communities in other phases of life. While these housing complexes may make sense economically, they would deny residents the opportunity to spend time around people in all different phases of life.
Everything seems scarier in our heads than it in real life. Exposure to other points of life widens our view, rids us of the fear of “adulting” and gives us perspective outside of the hustle and bustle of our own age group. I once heard that is is impossible to be a good Jew “alone”. We must have other people around us and we must affect others in order to really live a “good” life according to Jewish tradition. Judaism is about family. We are not only meant to be around others, but also around others on all points in their life journey. Today in the U.S it is more common than not that we live far from our families in communities of peers-perhaps it is time we start reaching out beyond our age group at parties and young professional events — and begin to seek out connections in less obvious places.
We can only gain wisdom and valuable friendships through connections with people who have yet to enter our stage of life or who have already left it.