Parshas Ki Savo: Respecting Our Elders
This week, Rebbetzin Rachel was speaking with a 77-year-old woman. This woman is unique in that not only is she a proudly self-proclaimed “older person” but she also works (yes, still works!) with the elderly. She even lives in an independent living facility where, she says, she is further surrounded by “old people.” (Her words, not ours!)
Chances are that few people understand the situation of older people in today’s society than this woman, who lives with them, works with them, and even is one! Sadly, she pointed out that many older people in today’s society feel discarded. Young people, she said, don’t want to hear what the elderly have to say. She said some young people have even told her she and other old people are “always complaining.”
What a stark contrast to Judaism! When Moses tells the Jews about the evil people they will meet in their future, he describes “a brazen people who will not respect the old.” In other parts of the Torah, Jews are instructed to go out of their way to help an older person, even if they are not Jewish. Parshas Kedoshim even tells us specifically to stand when an elderly person (someone above the age of 70) enters the room, even if he/she is not a Torah scholar!
The elderly are a treasure. They have wisdom, insight, and life experiences with which we younger people are not yet endowed. The advice they can give us is invaluable and the stories they can tell us fascinating, and indeed, priceless. To see so many of the elderly treated so poorly in today’s society is heartbreaking.
The good news is, we can each help to change this. Studies show that people live longer, happier, and healthier lives if they are valued by society. If we visit the elderly and show the world our Torah values by honoring them, we can change the world in three fundamental ways: changing the life of the person we are visiting, changing our own life by absorbing their wisdom, and changing the behavior of others by acting as an example and role model.
This week, let us all be true Torah examples of love, respect, and kindness for our elders.
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