Each summer we focus on values that we can DO! At the J camps, all the children and the families get involved. There is a little learning, a little thinking and then a lot of doing! The value for this week is: hiddur p’nai zaken, honoring the elderly.
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav said, “The prosperity of a country is in accordance with the treatment of its aged.” How do we treat older people today? We are definitely not as sensitive as Judaism expects us to be. Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise before the aged and show respect to the elderly.” We are to treat older adults with respect — we should remember that wisdom is gained through life experience. There is so much for us to learn from a senior adult.
The first Jewish home for the aged in the United States was established in St. Louis in 1855. However, most seniors live in their own homes for as long as they can. At the JCC, seniors come daily for activity and involvement in all sorts of programs. We need to take the opportunity to learn from our seniors.
Do not reject us in our old age; do not abandon us when our strength has left us. Even in old age with gray hair, do not abandon me until I have declared Your strength to the next generation, Your might to everyone that has yet to come. — Psalm 71:9-10
Even in old age righteous people will continue to bear fruit; they will be full of vigor and strength. — Psalm 92
• The Book of Job (12:12) states that “with the aged comes wisdom, and length of days brings understanding.” Do you agree?
• Pirke Avot 4:25 says: Elisha ben Abuya said, “When a person learns something while still a youth, it is similar to ink written on new paper. When a person learns something as an old person, it is like writing with ink on paper that has already been erased.” What is that telling us?
• Talk about how the elderly are viewed on TV and in the movies. Is it positive or negative? Why?
Do something ‘Jewish unplugged’
Judaism is a historical religion; our history is our story. Today we can watch movies that share our history. Find a Jewish movie (there are lots, from cartoons to much more serious subjects). Watch together and talk about it. The generations may have different perspectives to share.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.