Dishonoring the Old
for the aged is the most common prejudice in America. While racism and sexism
are denounced endlessly, ageism is alive and well. A racist is anyone who has an
opinion other than an African-American or who uses the so-called N word, which
is prohibited despite the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech. A
sexist is any man labeled as such by any woman. Both racism and sexism can lead
to an economic death sentence, as the offender is fired from his job with or
without evidence and/or mere accusation.
however, is never even criticized. The aged are held in contempt in this
country. Even someone only 40 years old may find that he is no longer employable
and someone aged 50 can seldom find another job if he needs it. Economic
discrimination is not the only disability imposed on age. People viewed as old
are treated as boring, ugly, uninteresting, useless, despicable, disgusting,
incompetent, and stupid.
old person accompanied by a younger son or daughter will find that doctors and
others would speak to the younger person about the senior without looking at or
speaking to the patient the younger person brought with him.
a spouse dies, and that is usually the man, the widow will receive numerous
visitors who talk to each other but not the bereaved. Widows are usually ignored
even in religious congregations, no matter how long they have been a member or
how many contributions they may have made.
is no exaggeration to say that the old or those labeled old are the subject of
ridicule and arrogant demeaning conduct. This is as common among Jews as other
Americans, even in our synagogues. But we have a choice. We can treat the old as
the Torah commands and rise above the anger and hate of senior members.
Torah tells us (Leviticus 19: 32) “…and you shall rise before the hoary
head” and honor the old, and the Fifth Commandment tells us to honor our
fathers and our mothers and our grandparents.