("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
The story is told about a certain rabbi in Europe, who suffered from a self-diagnosed degree of social anxiety. The rabbi feared speaking publicly, limiting himself to the two essential Derashos that the job demanded – the annual Shabbos Shuva Derasha and the annual Shabbos HaGadol Derasha. He would spend 4 to 5 months preparing for each one, until he was satisfied with the contents and presentation of each at which time, he would present.
There was only one other type of speech that the Rabbi realized he could no defer. A eulogy. If someone – especially one of the town leaders – were to pass away, the Rabbi would be called upon to present a thought-provoking and emotionally stirring Hesped in memory of the person.
The thought of not being prepared terrified the rabbi. Until one day, he stumbled upon a solution. Daily he would walk into shul and look around at the older members of the shul. If the Rabbi thought a person looked to be getting older, he would add that person to the list. Similarly, if he heard that someone had gotten sick, that person too, would be added to the list. Weekly, the Rabbi examined his list and wrote a eulogy for the people on the list – just in case. Over the years, he amassed a huge number of eulogies written for almost every member of the town.
One day, a fire broke out on his block. The townspeople worried that the fire might spread and were told to move their valuables to safety in order to protect them. As the rabbi ran, he grabbed his boxes with his writings in them to be saved. Along the way, he stumbled in the street and some of the papers got loose and floated about. Soon, people discovered that the Rabbi was writing Hespedim for people in town who weren’t dead yet. The commotion created quite a stir.
There was an angry meeting of the Town’s council where more than one councilmember was troubled with the Rabbi’s practice. To quote one member of the council, “Why is he trying to be Maspid (eulogize) us now. We aren’t even dead yet!”
Rav Elyashiv ztl. points out that one of the most beautiful aspects of Avraham’s life was that as he got older, he was blessed with Kol – with everything. While to others it seemed that getting older was a means to sense impairment and a future gloom and doom, Judaism highlights the age and experiences of one who is older who is blessed with wisdom and life experience. Indeed the word for “older individual” -- Zaken is an abbreviation of the phrase “Zeh Kana Chochma” (this one acquired wisdom). We are commanded not to “pity” the elder members of our society but rather to revere them.
What is the role of your elders in YOUR life?
What can YOU do to benefit from the knowledge and wisdom of those with more life experience than you?
How can we demonstrate and really feel the blessing of Ziknah in our Jewish society?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.