Next First Wednesday's speaker to discuss lost language

MANCHESTER - The Mark Skinner Library will be host to an impressive speaker for May's First Wednesday's lecture. Rabbi Ron ald Sobel, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El, the largest Jewish house of worship in the world, will give a talk titled "Words we no longer use: A Study in Language and Culture."

Sobel, a resident of both New York City and Woodstock, Vt, said that the language we speak reflects the lives that we live.

"It's inevitable that in the course of time that certain words become lost, meaning that they are no longer used or if used in significantly different ways," he said. "This is absolutely inevitable over the course of time."

Sobel said he became interested in words and the power behind their meaning and use as a member of the clergy. Words are critically important, and that pow er was very much present in the minds of those who authored the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Greek Philosophers, he said.

"It is only through words that we can really come to some kind of tentative understanding of what God is and what it is that God wants of us," he said. "And it is through words that the will of God is mediated to human beings ... words in the ancient world and equally in our contemporary world have profound meaning as we define our lives.. through each other are we ultimately de fining our relationship with the creator God."

In his address, Sobel will specifically talk about five words, he said we have lost in our time: amiability, duty, discipline, culture and righteousness. These words, he said, characterize the standards and values of a good life.

"A significant degree of those standards and values have eroded significantly in our age, and I am suggesting that words do not lose themselves nor do they disappear without reason," he said. "The reason that those words no longer have the power that they once had is that those ideals that those words represent have crumbled away in our time."

He said one of the consequences that has to be paid is that some words that reflect nobility are no longer in use, because it reflects a poverty mirrored in our lives today.

As someone who studies words and their changes over time, surprisingly Sobel does not have one favorite. The words he favors reflect grace, care and concern.

"Words that reflect a reverence for culture; those are the words that I wish to embrace in my own life and alas not always successfully," he said. Sobel, who was a rabbi at Temple Emanu-El for 40 years, around 30 spent as senior rabbi, said he does miss being able to touch a heart and heal a soul in times of need. However, he said at his age, he no longer should be doing what he did during his tenure.

"It was exciting, thrilling, awe-inspiring and demanding...I was at my tasks 24/7," he said. "But if I had defined what I did as work, it would have been intolerable. But it wasn't work for me, it was a sheer unadulterated joy to be able to do what I did and particularly from the pulpit of that largest Jewish house of worship in the world. It was an awesome responsibility that I was conscious of every moment when I awoke and every night when I retired."


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