GOOD MORNING! Recently, I had a very curious incident in Singapore. Sitting in a waiting room I watched as two people assisted a very old Chinese lady who was slowly entering the room. She seemed frail, weak, bent. Looking at her face I kept wondering, "How old is she?" Finally, I figured she must be close to 100.
She sat down in the chair next to me. A minute later she turns to me with a puzzled look and asks, "How OLD are you?" I was surprised ... no, I was shocked -- this woman is reading my thoughts! I responded, "I'm sixty-three." She then said, "Oh ... I thought you were MUCH older than that! I'm 91."
For weeks I was perplexed. Perhaps the 3,000 year Torah heritage was exuding an aura of ancient wisdom? I didn't really believe that either ... Then I had the pleasure of my friend Michael Platner spelling out for me what now seems to be obvious: She saw me looking ... staring ... at her, wondering just how old she really was. Likely she has experienced this hundreds of times before -- people staring and then asking, "How OLD are you?" which they insensitively follow up with "I thought you were MUCH older than that!" She, with her inimitable humor, pre-empted me -- turned the tables -- and was enjoying her little joke!
Is there a lesson here for me to learn -- or be reminded of -- something I can share with you?
The Torah teaches us that we are all created in the image of the Almighty. Every person has intrinsic worth and should be treated with respect -- especially, the elderly. The Talmud teaches us that we are to stand up for a Torah scholar in respect for his wisdom. It also teaches that we are to stand up for someone 70 years old -- even if they are not a Torah scholar. Why? If they have lived that long, they have wisdom about life!
We are responsible to elevate our behavior and our language befitting creations which have a soul and a spiritual connection to the Almighty. The Torah sets out laws governing speech -- the Laws of Loshon Hora -- to avoid speech which damages. In that set of laws we are taught that not all communication is through speech. Even a raised eyebrow or a smirk can communicate a negative statement about someone or something.
I must have been staring. I made her feel uncomfortable. Imagine how our patriarch Jacob felt upon meeting Pharaoh when the first words out of Pharaoh's mouth are "How old are you?". The lesson is to be sensitive to the feelings of others. Be careful not only how you act and talk to others, but in how you behave when it will have an impact upon other people.
We must be sensitive to others, particularly the elderly. And for those who are elderly, hopefully the following piece received from Nechama Greenfield will be amusing -- and perhaps helpful.
Torah Portion of the Week
Va'eira, Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups: 1) the water turning to blood, frogs, lice 2) wild beasts, pestilence/epidemic, boils 3) hail, locust, and darkness.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery: 1) The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers. 2) The second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority. 3) The third in each group imposed physical suffering.
* * *
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
In speaking with Moshe, the Almighty says:
"Also, I have heard the outcry of the Children of Israel."
What do we learn from the seemingly superfluous word "also"?
Rabbi Moshe Sofer, author of Chasam Sofer explained that "also" indicates that not only God, but the people also hear one another's cries. Even though the entire Jewish people were enslave and afflicted, they did not forget the plight of their fellow man.
Never say to someone, "I have my own problems. I don't want to hear about yours." If two people are in a hospital, each should take an interest in the other's condition.
When Rabbi Dov Bairish Wiedenfield, the Rabbi of Tshabin, heard that his wife died, he felt deep anguish. Immediately afterwards, however, he asked about the welfare of the other woman who was hospitalized in the same room. He expressed his hope that the death of her neighbor would not aggravate her illness.
The mother of Rabbi Simcha Zisel Ziv had a custom to collect money for the poor at funerals. At the funeral of her only daughter, she also collected charity. When asked how she was able to compose herself in the summit of her grief, she replied, "Just because I am suffering does not mean that the poor have to suffer also."
CANDLE LIGHTING - December 27
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:23 - Hong Kong 5:29 - Honolulu 5:40
J'Burg 6:44 - London 3:39 - Los Angeles 4:34
Melbourne 8:26 - Mexico City 5:48 - Miami 5:20
New York 4:17 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 4:29
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You don't stop laughing because you grow old,
you grow old because you stop laughing