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Reb Zalman: The December Years

Approaching the final years of life with a sense of peace.

A founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is also one of today’s leading thinkers on the spiritual stages of aging. Writer Kim Rosen spoke with the 88-year-old Zalman about how we can learn to approach the final years of life—for ourselves and our loved ones—with a sense of peace.What do you mean by the December years?In From Age-ing to Sage-ing, I wrote that the first seven years of life are the January period. In February, from age 7 to 14, the second teeth come in and you’re in a new phase. Puberty comes with March, up to age 21. Every seven years are represented by another month.We have models for being in the world up to September. We are taught how to behave in school, how to find a partner, how to get into business, and how to harvest money and position. But there aren’t any models about what to do after retirement.In the October years, a person has the opportunity to become an elder, not just old. The November years are about giving back to the world. In the book, I mention that there was yet a December period, a time when a person gets ready to furnish their solit …

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