Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
My grandmother was vaccinated before the queen of England. Probably your grandmother was, too. Israel put her old folks first. A stirring passage in this spirit appears in this week’s Torah portion: “And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron was eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.” This is not just a technical detail. The Exodus from Egypt is led by octogenarians. The world belongs to old and experienced people.
Sarah Sahalo Elbaz wrote a wonderful tribute this week to old age, whose image has been damaged over the years: “I grew up in an amazing Ethiopian extended family where I learned to esteem every stage of life. As a young girl, I was shaped by the circle of older women. They would sort garbanzo beans and lentils while interpreting dreams, making marriage matches, bringing peace into the homes of young couples, and whispering the secrets of life to all of us since they had reached the highest rank. The Creator himself confirmed this through the wrinkles on their faces. Each line in their skin was like a decoration or a jewel, and their white hair was a marvel as if they carried a white cloud over their heads and the Divine Presence dwelled among them. The old men were called ‘wise men’ and the old women were called ‘prophetesses’. On the day when three gray hairs were seen in my dreadlocks, all the women were happy for me and my daughter was excited since in a short while I, too, would march through the gate of wisdom and I would be like all the prophetesses whom she loved. In an era that worships youth, if only we could adopt for ourselves a little of this attitude towards old age.”