Jewish texts derive from an era before retirement was a fully formed notion. However, the concept appears as a directive to the Levites who served as priests in the Temple, demarcating the years of service from age 25 to 50. Yet at the age of 50 they remained in a supporting role. As we complete our service in employment perhaps of industry, government, non-profit work or educational systems, we can follow in the tradition of the Levitical texts and continue to be of service by being supportive of those who continue in roles of employment and by staying engaged in our communities. “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan (1921-2006)
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May my life be a legacy of goodwill, love, service, and joy. May I easily find ways to express my joy and keep the cycle of happiness going. God bless my days of retirement so that the pleasures of life rush to meet me daily. For this, I am grateful beyond measure. Amen.
As God blessed our ancestors on their journeys, so may you be blessed as you embark on the journey of your retirement. May you find rest and challenge, quiet and adventure. May you be sustained by the achievements of your work life and inspired by the possibilities of what lies ahead. May you allow yourself to experience silence and rest, and may you open yourself to the new music that may emerge from that silence.
Numbers 8:24-26 instructs that Levitical priests were to serve from age 25 to 50, thereafter their service shall be to sustain those doing the work but not perform the actual service.
וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
זֹ֖את אֲשֶׁ֣ר לַלְוִיִּ֑ם מִבֶּן֩ חָמֵ֨שׁ וְעֶשְׂרִ֤ים שָׁנָה֙ וָמַ֔עְלָה יָבוֹא֙ לִצְבֹ֣א צָבָ֔א בַּעֲבֹדַ֖ת אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃
This is the rule for the Levites. From twenty-five years of age up they shall participate in the work force in the service of the Tent of Meeting;
וּמִבֶּן֙ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה יָשׁ֖וּב מִצְּבָ֣א הָעֲבֹדָ֑ה וְלֹ֥א יַעֲבֹ֖ד עֽוֹד׃
but at the age of fifty they shall retire from the work force and shall serve no more.
וְשֵׁרֵ֨ת אֶת־אֶחָ֜יו בְּאֹ֤הֶל מוֹעֵד֙ לִשְׁמֹ֣ר מִשְׁמֶ֔רֶת וַעֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֣א יַעֲבֹ֑ד כָּ֛כָה תַּעֲשֶׂ֥ה לַלְוִיִּ֖ם בְּמִשְׁמְרֹתָֽם׃ (פ)
They may assist their brother Levites at the Tent of Meeting by standing guard, but they shall perform no labor. Thus you shall deal with the Levites in regard to their duties.
This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
on all your great and quiet achievements.
You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.
Have the courage for a new approach to time;
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.
Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire,
To live the dreams you’ve waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.
John O’Donohue (d)
Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in his hand Who saith, “A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!” – Robert Browning, Rabbi ben Ezra (c.1862)
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and richness.