In With the Old: Kedoshim 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you believe that our society gives proper deference to the elderly (however you define that term)? If not, what are some ways to improve our treatment?

Among the many ethical maxims in this week’s Torah portion is the command to treat the aged with respect:

The Pitch: “You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:32

Swing #1: “Respect for generational hierarchy in the family setting is evidenced as an expectation in not a few texts, and such respect is frequently articulated through idioms of honor and reverence. … [In this verse,] the acts of standing before one with white hair and honoring an old man are compared implicitly to reverencing God.” – Saul M. Olyan, Friendship in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “Some see a connection between the admonition regarding parents and the elderly, but the repetition of the clause ‘you shall fear your God’ suggests that the compilers saw a closer connection between the elderly and the physically infirm.” – Timothy M. Willis, Leviticus

Swing #3: “It states, ‘in the presence of the elderly,’ and close by it says, ‘If a proselyte comes to live with you,’ to inform that even in the presence of an ignorant elder you shall rise.” – Kitzur Baal HaTurim

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators define what qualifies someone as being “elderly”? Do you define it the same way? Should one’s advanced age disqualify them from any activity? If so, how we do determine this?

On-Deck at TBT: I’m excited that the Klein Scholar weekend will begin next week, and for the first time in three years, it will be in-person. Join Frederick E. Greenspahn, PhD, for four talks on The Changing Nature of American Jewry throughout the weekend of May 13-15. More details are available on the TBT website.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of aging, I still love the Satchel Paige quote, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Shabbat Shalom!