Too Young or Too Old…
Yesterday, news coverage of local elections put the spotlight on a 20 year old candidate for public office. I watched in fascination as a reporter asked the candidate whether he felt his age would be an issue.
Then I recalled that in our weekly Torah portion, the unusual wording in the opening verse of our Parsha: “emor…v’amarta… (say…and you shall say…)” drew the attention of our Sages.
Rashi, the classical Biblical commentator (b.1040- d.1105, France), quotes the Talmud (Yevamot 114a) saying that this unusual wording is meant to highlight the need to instruct the “gedolim al ha-ketanim”.
But, what does this mean? In truth, there is a bit of ambiguity in this ancient Hebrew phrase – an ambiguity that allows for multiple levels of meaning.
To some, the phrase “gedolim al ha-ketanim” refers to the need to remind the elder generations of their obligation to teach younger generations.
Others have said that it means that the elders themselves should be instructed along with the youth. I suppose this is what we would refer to today as “inter-generational education” or “family education” or perhaps to a sermon or to a torah discussion that takes place in the presence and with the participation of an entire congregation.
What the Torah is telling us is that we are never too young or too old to be included in Jewish community and in Torah study! At a young age, we may not take away the same message as we do when we are older, but there is truth to be learned at every age and at every stage of life.
When we are young we might feel distracted or less interested in learning. When we are older we may feel that we have heard it all already and there is nothing more that we can learn. The Torah reminds us that we all have something to learn. It reinforces the fact that our familial and inter-generational connections enhance our understanding of the multiple levels of truth that factor into Torah learning and into a Torah inspired life for ourselves and for our community!
May we enjoy the gifts of Torah and of community together. May we appreciate the multiple levels of learning and of doing that emerge from our Jewish communal experience. And may we celebrate many simchas and joyous occasions together as we delve deeper and deeper into the secrets of Torah. We are never too young or too old!
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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