Rabbi Rifat Sonsino, Ph.D
According to the biblical legend, Moses was 120 years old when he died; “his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated” (Deut.34: 7). Today, rare is the individual who can reach this limit, if ever. Furthermore, most people age at different speed, some much faster than others. I am almost 81 years old, and in relative good shape, even if I have a small belly that I never had before. I work as a part-time university professor, teaching Ethics at Framingham State University. I publish a blog (“SONSINO’S BLOG”) that, at the present time, has more than 430,000 viewers around the globe, and I give public lectures in my community. I go to the gym every day. My wife and I live in the independent living quarters of a large complex called, “The Willows” in Westborough, MA, and continue to travel to various places of interest. However, I am aware of the fact that I am getting older, and am going through a number of changes, both physical and emotional. For example:
1. My memory is not what it used to be. Even though I can easily recall various details in history, both past and more recent, and still lecture using only notes, and not a full text in front of me, I now have some difficulty with visualizing how to go from A to B in my own community. So, in order to compensate for it, I create little maps to help me navigate through the streets of Boston. Similarly, in the past, as a Rabbi and a university teacher, I did very well with the names of my students and members of my congregation. But now I am having problems with remembering the names of the people with whom I interact daily. These changes are starting to bother me.
2. I left Istanbul, Turkey, at the age of 21, after law school and military service, to study for the Rabbinate, with no intentions of returning. I wanted to create a new life for myself in a totally different culture. I studied in Paris and Cincinnati, and served in Buenos Aires as a newly minted Rabbi, before coming to the States in order to get my Ph.D. in Bible. But as I get older, I remember and even yearn for the food that I used to eat as a child and the music that I used to sing and listen to in my youth. So, I go to Middle Eastern restaurants and listen to well-known singers of my adolescence, both Jewish and non-Jewish, knowing full well that they belong to a long-gone era of my life that cannot be repeated.
3. There are some cultural trends that I now find difficult to understand or appreciate. For example, I cannot relate to rap music or the popular music of the present age. Nor do I understand the appeal to tattooing or piercing that is becoming so prevalent among the young people of our time.
4. I am slowing down a bit, and I am getting tired much faster than before.
5. I am becoming more impatient. In the past, I used to tolerate diversity of thought with resilience. But, having developed a philosophy of life and a theology based on reason and rationality, I now have the tendency to roll my eyes when I read or hear statements that are so incredulous.
6. Because I have a mild case of IBS, I find myself restricting my activities to places where facilities are at easy reach. Many adults and younger people, and especially my grandchildren, have a hard time understanding these personal limitations. That saddens me, because I cannot participate in many of their activities.
7. In the past, I lived in the moment, and rarely thought about the distant future. Now, I realize that, with good luck, I may have, at most, 10 more years to live. And if I am given more, that would be the icing on the cake. So, I have started to think about how I would be remembered, if at all. Having written a book entitled, What Happens After I Die, and having argued against resurrection or reincarnation, I now believe in living through my deeds. I assume that my body will disintegrate, and the energy I represent will return to the source of life. My sincere hope is that I will be remembered with blessing through my books and articles, and for all my teachings and all the good that I tried to do in my limited time.