Senior Citizen Day, an annual event observed on August 21st, is a day meant to both honor older citizens and to remind the government that seniors are a large and powerful constituency.
In Judaism, honoring senior citizens is both a natural part of the cultural philosophy and, in truth, part of Jewish law. “You shall rise up before the hoary [aged] head, and honor the face of the old man…”(Leviticus 19:32).
The Hebrew term for “old man” is zakein, which, according to the Talmud, refers to a sage, someone of great wisdom (as the 70 elders of Israel were called). The honor due a zakein is understandable, but what does the Torah mean by “You shall rise up before the hoary head”?
To stand up for someone is one of the primary ways to demonstrate respect for another. When a parent, teacher or political ruler enters the room, one is expected to stand up in his/her honor. In trying to understand this commandment, the sages discussed the different ways in which they had seen other great leaders act:
Issi ben Judah said: [The verse] implies any hoary head. Rabbi Jochanan said: The halacha is according to Issi ben Judah. Rabbi Jochanan used to rise [even] before aged heathens, saying: How many troubles have passed over these! Raba would not rise up, yet he showed them respect. Abaye used to give his hand to the aged. Raba sent his messengers. Rabbi Nahman sent his guardsmen…(Kiddushin 33a).
In the twenty-first century, with people leading extraordinarily active lives well into their golden years, it may be difficult to determine who deserves respect. It is best, therefore, to maintain the tradition that one is considered to be of “the age of wisdom” at 70.
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Reincarnation is a word that to most Jews screams of foreign cultures. What is not common knowledge, however, is that the reincarnation of souls is a concept found in Judaism (although not mainstream) known as gilgul.
Rachel had Jacob’s heart, Leah had his children.
For four long years, Rachel watched her sister give birth to son after son until she could bear it no longer. Frustrated but determined, Rachel recalled the actions of her husband’s grandmother, Sarah, and gave her handmaid, Bilhah, to be Jacob’s wife.
Psalm 27 is read twice daily from the beginning of the month of Elul through the holiday of Sukkot in order to help each Jew develop the beautiful relationship that one can have with the Divine.
While Jews suffered greatly as societal outsiders in many of the lands in which they lived throughout history, sometimes there were beneficial perks–such as a moderate level of communal autonomy. This was specifically the case in Poland (and Lithuania) from the end of the 16th through most of the 18th century.
In Tractate Pesachim 107a, beer lovers can find an interesting discussion about the use of beer for kiddush or havdalah. “Rabbi Hisda asked Rabbi Huna: Is it permitted to recite kiddush over [date] beer? [Rabbi Huna replied] In as much as I asked Rav, and Rav asked Rabbi Hiyya, and Rabbi Hiyya asked Rabbi [Judah the Prince] about pirzuma (barley beer), ta’ainy (fig beer) and asne (a fruit beer) and he could not resolve it for him, can there be a [different] question about [date] beer?”
The connection between Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (the Tur, Barcelona, Spain, 1269-1340), Rabbi Joseph Caro (Safed, Israel, 1488-1575) and Rabbi Moshe Isserlis (Cracow, Poland, 1520 – 1572) is an excellent example of both the international Jewish community and of Jewish scholarship in general.
New beginnings are always difficult. For those who are not “morning people,” every day is a new beginning, and we must be thankful to whoever invented the alarm clock, which keeps us from being labeled as “slothful” and “lazy.”
Most people can understand the layout and basic measurements of a building from its blueprint. But it takes an expert–an architect or an engineer–to use those blueprints to build a house.
Horoscopes are fun to read, especially when they tell you that you are about to get rich or find sudden fame. While telling the future through one’s horoscope is not part of Judaism, this does not mean that all aspects of astrology are false.