One of the characteristics of positive aging is a recognition of the importance of the spiritual dimension of everyday living. This is reflected in the attention paid to Jewish spiritual practice. There are many resources available to use in developing a spiritual practice. One of the more innovative ones is mitzvah cards (Reclaiming Judaism Press, 2011). The starter deck of 53 cards identifies a wide range of Jewish spiritual practices, both ethical and ritual, to encourage living a mitzvah centered life. The name of each mitzvah appears on the card in Hebrew, along with a transliteration and a brief explanation, as well as a citation from Torah or Talmud.
One of the mitzvah cards is “Bless Moon-thly”–gather, bless and share about life in rhythm with the new and full moon. Rosh Chodesh, a mapping of Jewish time, commemorates the monthly cycle, paralleling the moon’s waxing and waning. Jewish months follow the moon, each with its own focal point and special qualities. Observing Rosh Chodesh has become part of the Jewish feminist movement. Part of the ritual for observing Rosh Chodesh includes blessings (another mitzvah card), marking the experience of reaching this point in the cycle of the Jewish year. Another mitzvah card, “Bringing in the Light” describes a ritual often part of Rosh Chodesh celebrations, lighting a candle to indicate a sacred time. Other mitzvah cards, such as “Create Sacred Space”, “Listen”, “Live in Awe”, “Accept the Covenant”, also relate to observance of Rosh Chodesh. One interesting ritual involved with Rosh Chodesh is the honoring of women whose yahrzeit falls during the month. The contributions of these elders become a part of the learning experience of celebrating the holiday (as reflected in the mitzvah card, “Honor Elders”).
Through study and reflection of mitzvot, the meaning and relevance of Jewish values, ethics and rituals in our lives can be revealed. Working with mitzvah cards can heighten and enrich spiritual practice, and at the same time enhance positive aging.