08/30/2012 05:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reb Zalman's Jewel of Elul: December Days

Recently I had a conversation with someone who said to me, "You wrote a very beautiful book; it's very uplifting and encouraging. However, isn't there a dark side to aging?" And he is right, there is a more somber side.

I find myself now in my December days. In my book I spent a lot of time on October, becoming an elder, and November, serving as an elder. I was much more skimpy on December. The reason is clear: I wasn't there yet. Now I am.

Now is one of the best periods of my life. I'm harvesting so much of what I sowed in the world.

And yet, when I look in the mirror before I put on my public face, I view this slightly stooped old man with wrinkles. The business that I describeas coming to terms with one's mortality has since become coming to terms with actually dying. And there is a tiredness that feels chronic. Thank God sometimes I feel less tired and more ready to anticipate and enjoy the good things in my life. Still, it's only a distraction from the pervasive tiredness.

I'm sharing this with you, not because I want to discourage you. On the contrary, I want you to know that from aging to saging is a positive journey, optimistic and full of sunshine. But I also need to correct the beautiful high notes by playing some somber bass notes to balance and strengthen the truth of what we present.

I do not feel a pang of unlived life. I handled my life repair for much that needed Tikkun. I believe I have mostly done the Tikkun needed. I bear witness to you that the elder-ing work is real.

Rabbi Zalman Hiyyah Schachter-Shalomi is the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement and one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time.

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