Honor Senior Citizens
Honor Senior Citizens

Jewish tradition regards honoring and respecting senior citizens, kibud zekaynim, as a value that reminds us to learn from those who have come before us. The earliest discussion of honoring the aged derives from Leviticus 19:32 which instructs, “You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall revere [fear?] your God, I am the Eternal.” The implications of this instruction are clear: recognition and demonstration of respect for age and life experience.

The Torah has numerous references to support senior citizens, especially in regards to their experience and wisdom. Of note are references to the seventy elders who accompanied Moses during his journey to the top of Mt. Sinai, and who were consultants and advisors to Moses and the Israelites during their time in the desert. These “elders” had experience and wisdom to help the people make progress (Numbers 11:16)

Judaism also emphasizes that tradition that is handed down from one generation to the next. The Talmudic section Pirkei Avot begins by telling us that Moses – after receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai – transmitted its teachings to Joshua, and from Joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the Great Assembly. We constantly remember the wisdom of our preceding generations with which our entire way of life is based.

What is clear from Judaism is that sharing our experiences helps us learn from each other and grow. When we honor senior citizens, they too, will honor us. In turn, when we learn from the elderly, they too, will learn from us.

Questions for Reflection
1. How can we make sure our own memories live on?
2. What memories senior citizens have shared with you impacted you most?
3. What are ways in which we can reach out to senior citizens to show that we honor them?
4. How can you incorporate and teach the value of kibud zekaynim in the classroom?

Senior Citizens are people who have been alive a long time and can have special experiences and knowledge. We should respect and honor them.