Dear Friend of Israel,
“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (Psalm 71:9). This Bible verse speaks to a universal concern. Haven’t we all struggled with how best to care for an aging loved one, or experienced the trials of aging ourselves? And don’t we all want to be remembered and lovingly cared for in our old age?
I was reminded of this poignant passage of Scripture recently when I spoke with a wonderful group of Christians from South Korea who were in Israel visiting Fellowship projects. Caring for the elderly is a foundational value of Korean society, just as it is a key tenet of both Christianity and Judaism. But when speaking to my Korean friends during their visit to Israel, as well as during my visits to The Fellowship‘s office in Seoul, many expressed concern that this key value is weakening.
This concern is not unique to Korea, and points to a painful situation that we all must help to alleviate: At a time when they are vulnerable and seek only to live with a measure of comfort and dignity, some elderly people find themselves isolated and impoverished, unable to afford basic necessities. They also long for companionship and human contact – they want to know that they have not been cast away or forsaken.
As we work to enrich the lives of suffering elderly, we too are enriched. The Bible tells us to “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). If we listen, the older generation can instruct us in the path we are to follow and remind us of the values we hold dear that can often be obscured by modern society.
With this in mind, The Fellowship has a program that sends people, many of them young people, to visit lonely Holocaust survivors. They bring them food, arrange for them to get the help they need, and talk to them. We found that, as important as this is for the elderly Holocaust survivors, it is just as beneficial for young people, who learn so much from the wisdom and experience of the elderly.
Respecting and caring for the elderly is more than a biblical mandate: It is a privilege that enriches us in so many ways. Let us remember this value as we move forward in fellowship to help the elderly, and as we continue to pray for the gift of shalom, peace, to enter our broken world.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President