May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

When we’re young, we can feel like we don’t have much in common with older people, and maybe not much to learn from them either. But in this week’s portion, God teaches us that older people deserve our attention—and our respect. They have a lot of life wisdom, and give us a connection to what were in many ways the greater days of the past.

In our story, we meet a kid who gets a new perspective on old age.

Something Old, Something New

I felt both guilty and relieved as I watched my parents begin to pack up our minivan. They were getting ready to visit Grandpa later in the afternoon at the old age home. As usual they wanted me to go along, but this time I told them I wasn’t coming with them. My parents were disappointed, and I knew Grandpa would be too, but I just couldn’t do it this time. I hated to admit it, but I just found old people so, you know, boring. I like things new and exciting, lots of action. And let’s face it—old people are not like that at all. Besides, I had big plans. There was a special hi-tech exhibit at the science museum—talk about new and exciting—and my buddies and I had planned to go check it out. They had the latest computer equipment on display, and there was even supposed to be a robot that could clean a whole room—I could sure use one of those.

I got there first and waited for the other guys to show up. After a few minutes, something unusual caught my eye. It seemed like some celebrity or something arrived, because there was this old man being followed around by about a whole bunch of kids who couldn’t do enough for him. One kid brought him a drink, another was carrying his coat, someone else brought him a chair, and even brushed it off before he sat down!

“He must be really big,” I thought. Maybe he’s a famous actor or some billionaire sports team owner. My pals hadn’t shown up, so I figured I’d move closer and try to get a piece of the action.

As I got closer, I could see that the kids were from the local Torah school. I nudged up to one of them, and whispered, “Who is he?”

I guess I didn’t speak clearly, because the kid gave me a funny look, and said, “I’m sorry—I don’t know what you mean.”

I explained, “I can see from the way you’re all fawning over this old man that he must be someone important, like, you know, a celebrity. So who is he?”

The kid nodded his head, and I thought he was trying to cover up a smile. “Well, you’re right,” he said. “He’s someone very important, but not like you think. He’s our great-grandfather and almost 90 years old.”

I didn’t get it, and I guess the kid could tell because he went on to explain. “You see, we learned in our school how important it is to show respect for older people.”


“Well first of all, anyone who has lived so long has seen and done a lot, and picked up a lot of life wisdom along the way. When I hear an older person tell a story about what life was like when he was our age, I feel like I’m getting a living history class. But more than that, we learned that the way God designed the world is that in each generation you go back, people were greater and wiser.”

“But we have so many new things today that they didn’t,” I objected.

“Maybe they didn’t have all the high-tech we do,” he said, pointing toward the exhibit, “but they didn’t need it—their brains were already high-tech. So when we get a chance to be with an elderly person, we do all we can to show him respect, and learn from him. Get it?”

Meanwhile the old man had started to get up from his rest and move on, so the kid apologized to me, and jumped up to follow him. I thought about what he said. I had never looked at it that way, but I had to admit, the kid made sense. Maybe old people did deserve more respect than they get.

I watched the “great-grandfather” make his way down the aisle, surrounded by his admirers, and thought about my own lonely Grandpa, and how I wasn’t even making him important enough in my life to pay an occasional visit.

“Hey Jay, where have you been hiding?” called out one of my buddies from across the museum lobby. “C’mon, let’s go and check out all the great new stuff.”

“Sorry,” I said. “Something’s come up and I have to catch my parents before they leave. I’ve gotta go with them to see someone who may not be new—but is definitely great.”

Nesanel Yoel Safran is a writer, chef and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, “Soul Foodie,” where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen—and for living.

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