Respect the Elderly — Even When It’s You, Part II


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I remember a discussion I once had with an elderly man. He told me that he recently had his seventieth birthday. Family members congratulated him and seemed happy, but he was full of anxiety.


“I have become more aware of the difficulties that elderly people suffer from. I dread being old. It’s not the fear of dying that weighs on my mind,” he said. “Rather, it’s the fear of being helpless. After all I’ve done and accomplished in my life, I can’t believe that I will one day be as unable to do things for myself as a young child.”


“It looks like you are taking the worst-case scenario and worrying about that,” I said to him. “There are many older people who maintain good health even in their old age. Some people do have a much easier time towards the end of their life than others.”


“But the picture of myself being weak and unable to do things for myself shakes me to the very core. I know I can’t predict how the later years of my life will be. But just the thought of the possibility of my being a nothing and a nobody scares me.”


“I can see from what you are saying that the core issue for you isn’t just lacking the strength that you used to have,” I said to him.


“From what you are saying it appears that your main concern is your self-image. You are a dignified person with a high level of balanced self-respect. It seems that you view being older and unable to function like before as a heavy blow to your self-image.”


“That’s definitely correct. I feel that it’s almost as if I’ve wasted my entire life if I end up living without dignity.”


“The Torah concept of “kavod haadam” – respect for humans – is valid our entire lives. Even after death, there is a high obligation to treat the departed person with the greatest respect and dignity. All the good that you have done your entire life is a reality that stays with you for all eternity. Even someone who has totally lost his ability to function in any capacity still maintains his infinite value and worth.


“I suggest that you mentally increase your respect for any elderly person you encounter. The essence of a person is his soul, not his body. Even if someone can’t function at all, the soul is still there. Just like it is forbidden to shorten the life of an infant or a young child, so too it is equally forbidden to shorten the life of an elderly person whose body is not functioning well. When you internalize the Torah concept of life, you will be able to maintain a positive self-image as long as your mind is working on even the most basic level.”


I could see from this person’s reaction that he welcomed this entire concept.

Jewish World Review

By Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
BACK to http://margotbworldnews.com
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