Senior Citizens & Elder Care


  • How are we supposed to greet the elderly? What does this say about how we are supposed to treat the elderly?
  • What are we supposed to learn from the elderly?


(לב) מִפְּנֵ֤י שֵׂיבָה֙ תָּק֔וּם וְהָדַרְתָּ֖ פְּנֵ֣י זָקֵ֑ן וְיָרֵ֥אתָ מֵּאֱלֹקֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י ה'׃ (פ)
(32) You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.


  • What does it mean to “show deference” to someone?
  • Why might fearing God be tied to showing respect for the elderly?
  • Why are we required to "rise" before the elderly?


  • If we are physically able to rise and greet an older person, should we do so even if we don’t respect that person? Why or why not?

(ט) מִי שֶׁהוּא זָקֵן מֻפְלָג בְּזִקְנָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ חָכָם עוֹמְדִין לְפָנָיו. וַאֲפִלּוּ הֶחָכָם שֶׁהוּא יֶלֶד עוֹמֵד בִּפְנֵי הַזָּקֵן הַמֻּפְלָג בְּזִקְנָה. וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב לַעֲמֹד מְלֹא קוֹמָתוֹ אֶלָּא כְּדֵי לְהַדְּרוֹ. וַאֲפִלּוּ זָקֵן כּוּתִי מְהַדְּרִין אוֹתוֹ בִּדְבָרִים וְנוֹתְנִין לוֹ יָד לְסָמְכוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט לב) "מִפְּנֵי שֵׂיבָה תָּקוּם" כָּל שֵׂיבָה בְּמַשְׁמָע:

(9) For one who is old and distinguished in age, though not a scholar, it is obligatory to rise up; even a young scholar should rise before an old man distinguished in age; but the obligation is not to rise before him in full height, only enough to honor him. It is proper to honor with words even the aged Kuthean and to give him a leaning hand, as it is said: "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head (gray-haired)", the inference being that it includes all hoary heads.


  • How does this text limit the honor given to the elderly?
  • How might we honor “with words” an elder?
  • What does it mean to offer an older person a “leaning hand”?
  • Why would the Mishneh Torah text say “even the Kuthean”? What does this tell us?

כָּל הַמְקַבֵּל פְּנֵי זָקֵן כְּאִלּוּ מְקַבֵּל פְּנֵי שְׁכִינָה,

One should greet an elderly person as one greets the Shekhinah


  • How is greeting an old person like greeting the Divine Presence?
(ט) אַֽל־תַּ֭שְׁלִיכֵנִי לְעֵ֣ת זִקְנָ֑ה כִּכְל֥וֹת כֹּ֝חִ֗י אַֽל־תַּעַזְבֵֽנִי׃
(9) Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me!


  • In what ways are older people often “cast off” from their families? from society?
  • What does it mean to “forsake” someone?
  • Why is loss of physical strength often a time when older people are abandoned?


  • Is placing someone in an elder care facility “casting them off”? Why or why not?
  • How can we both honor our elderly and have their physical needs taken care of by professional staff?

רבי נחמן מברסלב, ספר המידות, זקנים

לפי הזקנים שבדור, כן הפרנסה

Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, Sefer HaMiddot, The Elderly

Gauge a country’s prosperity by its treatment of the aged.


  • Why might a country’s prosperity be tied to their treatment of their older population?
  • In America, what is the typical way older people are “cared for” by society?
  • What do you know about elder care in other countries?
(ז) זְכֹר֙ יְמ֣וֹת עוֹלָ֔ם בִּ֖ינוּ שְׁנ֣וֹת דּוֹר־וָד֑וֹר שְׁאַ֤ל אָבִ֙יךָ֙ וְיַגֵּ֔דְךָ זְקֵנֶ֖יךָ וְיֹ֥אמְרוּ לָֽךְ׃
(7) Remember the days of old, Consider the years of ages past; Ask your father, he will inform you, Your elders, they will tell you:


  • Why might it be important to remember the past? Ponder the years of the generation(s) before us?
  • In what ways are people gathering the stories of generations that came before us?
  • How does listening to the stories of our elder population honor them?


(א) וְאַבְרָהָ֣ם זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים וַֽה' בֵּרַ֥ךְ אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם בַּכֹּֽל׃

(1) Abraham was now old, advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

אמר חזקיה אמרי אינשי סבא בביתא פאחא בביתא סבתא בביתא סימא בביתא:

Ḥizkiya said that people say a popular saying: If there is an elderly man in the home, there is a burden [paḥa] in the home, as he does not help with anything; if there is an elderly woman in the home, there is a treasure in the home, as she assists with various domestic labors.

(יב) כַּבֵּ֥ד אֶת־אָבִ֖יךָ וְאֶת־אִמֶּ֑ךָ לְמַ֙עַן֙ יַאֲרִכ֣וּן יָמֶ֔יךָ עַ֚ל הָאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־ה' אֱלֹקֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃

(12) Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you.

תנו רבנן... כיבוד מאכיל ומשקה מלביש ומכסה מכניס ומוציא

The Sages taught... What is considered honor? He gives his father food and drink, dresses and covers him, and brings him in and takes him out for all his household needs.

רבי נחמן מברסלב

לעולם אל יהא אדם זקן. לא צדיק זקן ולא חסיד זקן. הזקנה מידה מגונה היא, חייב אדם להתחדש תמיד, מתחיל וחוזר ומתחיל

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

One must never be old, neither an old saint nor an old follower. Being elderly is a vice; a man must always renew, begin and go back and begin anew