Recognize the Value of Our Elders

Yael Eckstein  |  September 23, 2020

elderly woman, blue and green headscarf, holding hands, fellowship volunteer, white sweatshirt

Remember the days of old;
    consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you,
    your elders, and they will explain to you
. — Deuteronomy 32:7

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Ha’azinu, which means “listen,” from Deuteronomy 32:1–52.

Most children in Israel take part in a seventh-grade school project designed to help students discover and connect with their roots. I love this assignment, which I have already seen two of my children complete. It requires our children to not only discover their family’s history, but also to speak with family members including parents and grandparents in order to hear about their lives and the lessons they have learned along the way. This assignment underscores the value of learning history not only from textbooks, but from actual people who have lived their lives and have wisdom to share.

In this week’s Torah portion, we come across this very same idea. Scripture directs us to “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.” The Bible tells us that it is important to study history and learn from it. In this way, we can avoid the mistakes of the past and build upon the successful accomplishments of humankind.

However, the importance of learning history does not only apply to studying world events from textbooks and lectures, but also to learning from individual people and their personal lives. The verse continues: “Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”

The generations that have come before us have vast amounts of wisdom to offer us, if only we would ask them. Too often, we fail to recognize the value of our elders especially when they slow down physically. Instead, we ought to do all we can to seek out their wisdom. As someone once told me, God created gray hair so that we might know from whom to ask advice!

There is a treasure trove of wisdom just waiting to be discovered. We must never overlook the gift of having parents, grandparents, and relatives and friends who are older than us — they won’t be around forever. We must take advantage of our elders and recognize their value so that we can live our lives better and then pass their wisdom forward to future generations.

Your turn:

What is the best lesson that you have learned from a grandparent or an older relative or friend? Share it with us in the comments below.

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