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Bar Yovel: A Retirement Ritual


We have gathered here tonight to celebrate an end and a beginning. As Hyman Chanen completes his years of work in the labor force and begins his years of retirement, we, his family and friends, join in thanksgiving for what has been and in anticipation of what will be. Together we observe with Hyman his reaffirmation of the covenant as he becomes a bar yovel, a son of the jubilee.

(Ann Chanen presents Hy with a new kippah. Hy then lights seven candles.)


We praise You, God, Ruler of Time and Space. Tonight, as I celebrate with family and friends the Covenant of Time, I light candles, reminiscent of the candles lit on Shabbat. Just as Shabbat is the seventh day, the end of the week of work, so the years to come are a "seventh day" after years of work in the marketplace.

With a full heart, I thank you for the blessings of the years that have passed and for the strength that I have been granted to labor and to overcome difficulties.

As we enter this new period in our lives, may You continue Your faithful kindness toward me and my family. May Your countenance continue to shine and fill our home with light.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי יֻצַּר יוֹצֵר יוּצַר הָאוֹרוֹת

Barukh attah Adonay, Yotzer ha-m'orot.

Praised are You, Lord, Creator of lights.

Ann (holding a glass of wine):

We praise You God, Ruler of Time and Space. In love You have given us this time for enjoying the fruits of our labors. May this be a time not of stagnation, but of inner growth. May we find new ways to serve You and to consecrate our lives to matters of the spirit.

Keep alive within us the spirit of gratitude for Your many blessings, so that we may know the sweet taste of contentment.

Our cup runneth over.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

Barukh attah Adonay, Eloheynu melekh ha-olam, borey p'ri ha-gafen.

Group (sings):



Even in joy there are doubts, apprehensions, questions concerning what will be. As the bar yovel symbolically puts down and releases the tool of his trade, he asks four questions.

Hy (setting down his briefcase):

As I enter the years of retirement and aging: Will I be bored or stimulated? Will I feel useless or valuable? Will I be lonely or involved with others? Will I feel despair or hope?


Only the years to come can answer those questions, but tonight we can do several things to help Hy through his transition.

First, we have brought seven gifts. (Bestowal of symbolic gifts by seven friends.)

Second, we can follow the traditional Jewish custom of offering tzedakah in Hy's honor. The money will be given to the Philadelphia Unemployment Project. (Each person present gives to a common bowl.)

Third, we can scare away the demons as our ancestors did with the blast of the shofar.

Reader 1:

The demon of boredom! (Shofar is sounded.)

Reader 2:

The demon of uselessness! (Shofar is sounded.)

Reader 3:

The demon of loneliness! (Shofar is sounded.)

Reader 4:

The demon of despair! (Shofar is sounded.)


The shofar is not only heard to scare away evil. It was also used by our ancestors to proclaim the Jubilee Year.

Reader 5:

"And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and there shall be unto thee the days of seven sabbaths of years, even forty and nine years. Then shalt thou make proclamation with the blast of the horn on the tenth day of the seventh month; in the day of atonement shall ye make proclamation with the horn throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you; be shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy unto you; ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In this year of jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession. And ye shall not wrong one another; but thou shalt fear thy God; for I am the LORD your God. Wherefore ye shall do My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land" (Lev. 25).

Reader 6:

So do we tonight declare Hy a bar yovel sounding the shofar to proclaim his new status. (Shofar is sounded.)

Don Benjamin:

We proudly present you with this certificate, testifying to your new place in the covenant community. Welcome and Mazal Tov! (Shofar is sounded.)


At this point I would like to respond by taking on an additional name, indicative of my new identity, even as I retain my old names, indicative of continuity. The name I have chosen is _________.

Reader 7:

As we come to the close of our service, we prepare to share dried fruit and other foods which gain sweetness as they age. Tonight is truly a beginning, a moment of newness, an opportunity on life's path. Hy and Ann will wash each other's hands as a symbol of their renewed commitment to care for each other. (Hands are washed.)

We will now bless the fruit.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ

Barukh attah Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha-olam borey p'ri ha-etz.

We praise You God, Ruler of Time and Space, Creator of the fruit of the tree.

Reader 8:

As Hy and Ann bless God in appreciation for having lived to this day, let us all join in a hearty and vigorous "Amen."

Hy and Ann:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה

Barukh attah Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha-olam shehekheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu, la-z'man ha-zeh.

We praise You God, Ruler of Time and Space. You have kept us alive and sustained us and allowed us to witness this very day.



Concluding Song: Ba-shanah Ha-ba'ah (Eat, Drink, Sing, and Rejoice!)

Prepared by the "Life Cycle Passages" class of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Institute for Adult Jewish Studies, December 1983. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Instructor

Complete Ceremony