Who am I? The essential question for each of us. What am I, where do I come from? Where do I go? The Humanist may have some biological answer or even some sociological construct, but for the person with some form of religious faith - indeed ANY form of religious faith - our existence has at least SIX dimensions. As well as the standard four dimensions of Left/Right, Up/Down, Backwards/Forwards and Time, there are, respectively, the Time Before Time and the Time After Time. Even this is of course putting it far too simply but for the sake of explanation: Before My Time started, before I was born, or conceived, there were so many strands of history that led to my father meeting my mother or, just as importantly, my mother agreeing to be with my father. Each had had their own families, their own journeys, their own previous experiences, their hopes and disappointments, each came from traditions and cultures which they brought together and brought into me, either in my genes or in the way they raised me. So the concept of the Time before Time explains why I was born where I was born, and when I was born, and why I am Jewish, and then later there are the issues of how I was raised Jewishly - for some people this question has to be replaced by How they came to decide upon Judaism, the spiritual path they walked to get to where I was already born. But that's fine. They also had roots. We all do. You too.
So much of each of us is an amalgam of others who lived before us, who passed on languages, names, they form the roots from which we grow. Like plants we live on the soil in the sunlight, but our life-giving roots are hidden down below. We are their heirs.
Then there will be the Time After Time. I believe that just because I will at some point cease physically breathing - as we all will do, we just do not know when, where or how this moment will come - then Life will continue, certainly for others whom I leave behind, those I helped to create, those I raised, those I taught, those I helped, those I comforted, maybe even those I saved from making some foolish error...... And what about those parts of me that are not physical, my beliefs, my ideas, my loves (and dislikes), my tastes, my memories, my relationships? A religious person has some concept that this does not all simply dissolve. There may be different approaches to the question - some religions will speak of a World to Come, or a Paradise (or a Hell), or a Rebirth, a Reincarnation, or a Rapture or a Physical Resurrection.... Let us not get bogged down in the details for the one thing we know is that we do not yet know what will happen. But we can believe that SOMETHING will. That there will be a Time Beyond Time. Sometimes we use the word Eternity for this.
There are other questions too, for we are always changing. We divide the Time - This Time - into Years, and mark each year the new beginning. Would I recognise the Me I was at this time last year, if I were to meet them? Would I recognise the Me I will be (or hope be) this time next year? Would They recognise Me? And what about You? There is a great deal to think about.
Rabbi Dr. Walter Rothschild. LBC 1984. (Berlin, Germany)