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Inspiration at AJAS Conference

Posted: March 7, 2013

The keynote address at this year’s annual Association of Jewish Aging Services conference was Rabbi Naomi Levy.  She started by saying that our agencies’ services are a gift to those elders who might otherwise feel alone, isolated and bitter.  She cited two Torah portions that illustrate the importance of work to care for seniors:

  • The story where during the flight from Egypt, Amilech’s forces pounced on the stragglers and killed them.  She points out that while most commentaries focus on the evilness of Amilech and his people for attacking the weak (most likely the elderly and disabled), Rabbi Greenberg sees the passage as a message to us to better care for the weak members of our community.  After all, she says, if we hadn’t left the weak to straggle behind, they would not have been vulnerable for Amilech’s forces.  The story is a sign for all generations that it is holy to embrace and protect the whole community.
  • The story of Moses smashing the tablets containing the 10 commandments when he saw the people worshipping the golden calf.  Moses gets a second set, but when the people carry around that new set in the holy arc, they included all the smashed pieces too.  Rabbi Levy says this teaches us to be mindful of how we treat our elderly—the years may have broken down their bodies, perhaps even parts of their minds, but even broken, they are our treasures.

While she acknowledges how difficult the aging process can be, she also points out it has blessings: life without work, grandchildren, perspective, link to our past, wisdom.  We can GROW older and actively choose to live, learn and develop—and those of us who work with our seniors can help each one realize his/her desired future.

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