Tradition & Innovation

Turning 80

By Judith Ruskay Rabinor


Gathered amongst family and friends, a family member began:

We are a family interested in rituals. Feminism, psychotherapy and Judaism have been resources for us as we have created rituals that have deepened our appreciation of the spiritual and sacred aspects of life and the life cycle. Many of you have come to celebrations where we have incorporated our own rituals into naming ceremonies, bar and bat mitzvah services, and ceremonies honoring adoption, marriage, intermarriage, and remarriage. An 80th birthday is certainly an important occasion.

All religions teach respect for the elderly. Jewish law and lore teaches that wisdom comes with age.

And yet, there are very few ceremonies that honor and celebrate growing older or attaining old age.

In contrast to growing up, which is marked with a series of formal and informal rituals: promotions from one grade to another, making a team, joining a club, by bat and bar mitzvah, graduations, marriage, birth of children, often...

Getting older is ignored, dismissed or even seen in a somewhat negative light. But today we are gathered here to celebrate Peggy's 80th birthday. So we will begin with shining some light on Peggy.

Candle lighting ceremony

Family member #2:

"In the beginning there was light."
Light was the first of God's gifts.
As light appeared, it brought with it the possibilities of all of the wondrous things to follow.
We will begin with the by kindling lights, of hope, of celebration, of countless new possibilities.

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, v'tzivanu, l'hadlik ner shel yom tov.

May the light of possibility shine on Peggy and all of us here today.

Rituals of renewal

Family member #3:

Creating new rituals was a joyous opportunity for many people not with us today. Most present in all of our hearts is Shira, a great celebrator of life, who brought her energy, creativity, strength and love of family into our family. Shira was a ritual maker, and she would have loved to contribute her ideas to this occasion.
Shira, we miss you.

Candles of Remembrance

Family member #4:

So we wish to honor and remember Shira and the others whom we miss. Candles are symbols of light, life and hope; also, are symbols of the soul, so we now will light candles of remembrance for:

Names of family and friends who have died are read.
A candle for others who are gone but in the hearts of all who of you here today

Ritual of renewal: water

Family member #5:

Light... and fire... was and are crucial to sustaining life.
So is water.
Without water, life cannot be sustained.
We ask you, Peggy, now, to drink from this goblet, and as you drink, take in, drink in our prayers and blessings for healthy years ahead on life's road.
May God grant you a healthy, happy, long life.

Every Breath We Take: Blessing Life

Family member #6:

Light, fire and water are necessary to sustain life. So is the air we breathe.

Breathing takes us into ourselves.
Breathing honors what is inside, where we do our deepest work.
Breathing takes us into the inner wilderness, into the mystery of the human spirit.

Guided meditation

So now, I'd like you to take a few deep breaths, and let your whole body relax, and as you let yourself go, breathing in and out, in and out, as you go to the place where breathing in meets breathing out, as you sink into yourself, allow your mind to travel, back in time, to the first time you met Peggy. If you have trouble recalling the first time you met, let your mind wander, take a trip, explore your inner wilderness, and see if a moment of connection emerges. It might be decades ago, it might be last week. Travel the road, see what images emerge.

See if you can make contact with a moment, a memory that says something important about your relationship with Peggy. See her, see yourself. Take a moment to go down deep, as you get a sense of what it means to be connected to Peggy. Allow yourself to get in touch with who she is in your life, what you felt in the memory you recalled, what you feel now, in this room, here together, with all of us.

What is it you get in touch with when you think about Peggy?
What are her particular qualities that call out to you, that touch you, that connect with parts of you that you may not have thought about as you make contact with your memories:

Memories connect us to ourselves.
Memories bridge past and present
Memories bind us to each other.
We are our memories.
Memories connect us to each other.
We would like to invite you to share your stories, memories, blessings:

Stories, memories, blessings shared by friends and family


Family member #7:

One of the central tasks of old age is remembering. Re-membering means piecing and knitting together the pieces of ones life: It means honoring and integrating one's history. It means recalling the past for oneself and passing it on to the next generation.
We ask that the God of our people, of our ancestors and of the world make this a year of health and abundance.
We pray for peace for the world and all its people.
We look forward to being together for the next happy occasion. (Birthdays and upcoming simchas are mentioned.)

To close, let us all join together in a blessing of thankfulness for reaching this extraordinary occasion:

Barukh attah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olom, shehechiyanu v'kiy'manu, v'higianu, la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe who has kept us in life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this time.

Happy Birthday Mom


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