While every individual clearly has the right to define his or her own religious identity, I respectfully disagree with Geoffrey Kaye calling himself “a non-practicing Jew.” (Guadalajara Reporter, April 5-11, 2014)
One of the great things about Judaism is that more important than mere religious ritual – even prayer – is how we live our lives, our ethical behavior.
While Geoffrey may not be a fan of pomp and ritual and therefore does not regularly attend Synagogue services, his commitment to helping his fellow human beings and those in the animal kingdom is quite exceptional and should be greatly appreciated.
There would be no Lakeside Animal Shelter, no Synagogue building for the Jewish community, nor would I have had the honor of being this Jewish community’s first Rabbi had it not been for Geoffrey’s commitment to the values of rachamim, compassion, his devotion to the prevention of ts-ar ba-a’ley chayim – the suffering of animals and his many ma-a’sim tovim, good deeds.
And few outside of Israel would know that in Beersheva, he founded a teaching University especially for students who could not otherwise afford an education. However, Geoffrey’s heart of giving pumps not just for Jewish causes, but for universal ones as well. As written about in the Reporter, his present passion is to help children here in our community via the Love in Action orphanage – to which he has already given far more than just words.
Geoffrey Kaye, this Rabbi is proud to call you a practicing Jew.
Philip M. Posner, Ajijic. Rabbi of the Lake Chapala Congregation from 2004-2007.
As I was driving to Guadalajara an unbidden thought came to me: dying! This thought had little to do with the traffic, although there are some strange drivers on the road here. No, but while I am in my 81st year of life, I do not have such morbid thoughts regularly and I am feeling fine. But the obituaries in the Guadalajara Reporter are becoming more interesting. Indeed, quite a few people who I have known have passed away, many younger than I. I do wonder when it’ll be my turn.
Some things remind me that I am not going to live forever, including the desire to have a nap. Yet, I find it difficult to believe that I am getting old. What will the end of my life be like? Will there be pain? Will it be a long process, lasting days, weeks, months even?
When I have such questions, I always turn to Wikipedia on the Internet. Sure enough, even on this subject it offers some answers. Here is what I found: Our average life span has been increasing. In Roman times a person who would reach adulthood might live to 45 to 47 years; in Medieval Britain, the age of 64 has been recorded, and today - in North America - people almost routinely reach 80. For the whole world life spans average 67.2 years.
Longevity has something to do with evolution. It alters the coding in our DNA, but the reason we are becoming older also has to do with our increased knowledge about diet and a safer lifestyle. For many of us, the most dangerous things that happen to us are often self-inflicted: sport injuries or car accidents and – particularly lately – gun violence. Of course, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen to anyone and so luck also plays a role.
But no matter how careful we live and what age we reach, we will ultimately die. While I do not worry about it - after all it is inevitable - I do think about it and I have a feeling that I have this in common with probably everyone who is my age or older.
A study of this was done in the Netherlands with cancer patients who were in fact dying. It was found that being aware of the imminence of death is associated with acceptance of dying. The study done many years ago in Chicago by Dr. Kȕbler-Ross also indicated that patients who are dying know that they’re dying, even if no one talks about it and dying seems easier if it is discussed openly.
The Dutch study also seems to answer one of my other questions about dying, i.e. what will it be like. The most prevalent symptoms for the cancer patients, they reported, during the last 3 days of life, were a lack of energy (need of rest, fatigue, weakness 74–85 percent), a lack of appetite (73 percent), difficulty in concentrating (47 percent) and a shortness of breath (44 percent). Of course, those of us who will succumb to a coronary experience a lot of pain, but it usually doesn’t last very long. And I know of some lucky people who died in their sleep.
Not knowing what is in store for any of us, it is probably best to continue to live as we have, not taking needless risks, drinking lots of water, eating right and regularly; exercise, but not excessively; having a glass of wine with dinner and/or at night and a nap in the afternoon. Also keeping occupied, don’t smoke and keep the doctor at bay, except when you really hurt. Above all, don’t give dying too much thought, it’ll happen soon enough, so enjoy every day to the fullest!
John de Waal, MBA