Office of the Chief Rabbi

Va’eira: Covid-19 must prompt us to treasure older people

The Chief Rabbis’ weekly insight for Parshat Va’eira

Transcript:

From the Coronavirus we learn that we should never forsake our senior citizens. Ever since the commencement of the pandemic, the older people within our midst have suffered immensely. Within our societies we have faced the deep challenge of triage and so, very often, the interests of those who are older have been put right at the bottom of the list.

Thankfully now that vaccines are being brought out, it is correct and appropriate that those who are older are being prioritised.

At the beginning of Parshat Va’eira the Torah provides us with lists of genealogy relating to the families of the first three tribes. We’re told about Reuven and his children, Shimon and his children, but when it comes to the third tribe: Levi, we’re given details of both his children, his grandchildren and even some of his great grandchildren. Why is that the case?

Seforno explains that Reuven and Shimon hardly knew their grandchildren, but Levi was blessed to live to a ripe old age and as a result he played a role in the upbringing of his grandchildren. And who were they? None other than Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. So it was thanks to the influence of Levi that these three siblings, in quite extraordinary fashion, became so successful that they are role models and household names to this very day.

Benefit

So what we find out from the beginning of Parshat Va’eira, is that looking after our senior citizens is not only a mitzvah of care and respect – in addition, our society stands to benefit from them.

At the height of our High Holy Day prayers we call out from our hearts:

“Al tashlicheinu le’eit zichna ki’chlot chocheinu – al taazveinu.” – “Do not cast us aside when we are old and when our strength has failed. Do not forsake us.”

From the Coronavirus we learn how important it is not to forsake anyone at all and most definitely not to forsake our senior citizens.

Guidance

In Parshat Ha’azinu in the book of Devarim, we say, “Zekeinecha v’yomru lach.” If you want some guidance, go to the elders of the  society. They’ll tell you a thing or two. They will influence you. They will guide you. After all, if it was not for Levi, we wouldn’t have had a Moshe, an Aaron and a Miriam.

Shabbat shalom.

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