Photo Credit: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

You asked in your letter whether anyone would bother reading it since it was written in longhand rather than sent via e-mail and people would assume it was written by an elderly person who didn’t know how to use a computer. You bemoaned the “mindset of our culture” that marginalizes those who don’t use all the latest gadgets.

I wish I could disagree with you, but the reality is that most elderly people are computer illiterate and are unable to text, Skype or use an iPhone. As a result they tend to be invisible, lost in the shuffle of modern communications.

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In the Torah world, by sharp contrast, elders are revered pillars of the community. We are commanded to stand in their honor. They are our guides and teachers.

An elderly Torah sage was traveling to Eretz Yisrael accompanied by his son. A secular fellow traveler sitting in the next row marveled at the constant love and care the son showered on his father. “How is it,” he asked the son, “that in my world the elderly are regarded with condescension while among Orthodox Jews it is so different?”

The son of the sage explained, “It all has to do with our worldview. We go back to our father Abraham. We journey with him through the centuries and we reach our zenith at Sinai – an experience cannot be exceeded or duplicated. In our Torah are aware that the farther you trace your way back, the greater the wisdom you will discover. We never had dark ages but we did have prophets and sages.

“Unfortunately, with every generation some of that wisdom is lost, but in your world it’s just the opposite. Every generation is more advanced and the young are always smarter and sharper, and so the elderly look to the young for leadership. They stand in awe of their sons and daughters, convinced they know more because they are ‘newer.’ In the Torah world, none of that exists. When we pray we ask Hashem to renew our days and return us to times of yore –‘chadeish yameinu k’kedem.’ ”

Your letter to me was given priority precisely because you are older and one step closer to Sinai. You are a bubbie, and for no other reason than that we honor you and stand up for you. You may not be computer savvy but you are life savvy. You may not know how to e-mail but you know how to write. You may not be familiar with the smartphone but you are smart in the things that count.

So, yes, we stand in reverence of you.

I’m sure Hashem will guide your path in making the right decision.

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