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    Old people should never be born – Va’era

    I knew someone who had a tremendous memory for the folk sayings of pre-war Jewish Eastern Europe.

    One of the things he used to quote was about the sometimes difficult onset of old age. “Old people,” he said, “should never be born!”

    I am not sure of all the implications of the saying. I do know that some people of 20 are already old (a certain professor whom I knew in his youth reminds me that when he was still a teenager I told him, “You speak like an old man”). Some people remain youthful and energetic well into their senior years.

    Look at this week’s reading. Who were the leaders of the people, God’s agents in bringing Israel out of Egypt? Moses aged 80 and Aaron aged 83 (Ex. 7:7).

    According to Sforno, the Torah deliberately specifies their ages to show that their enthusiasm and energy were equal to the task.

    In our own age, a whole series of great spiritual leaders of American and world Jewry were still influential until well into old age – Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Moshe Feinstein, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and many others.

    The advantage of being a leader in one’s senior years is the ability to disregard things that are really not so important, and to concentrate on the job in hand.

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