The Torah teaches dignity for the elderly

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The Lord appeared to him (Abraham) by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tents as the day grew hot”. (Gen 18:1). The Sages tell us that God purposely caused it to be hot, so that the aged Abraham would not be disturbed by any visitors as he recovered from his recent circumcision. However, were are also told that “Looking up, he saw three men (angels, perhaps) standing near him”.(Gen 18:2). So- if the Sages were right- that God made it hot so Abraham would be left alone, why did God immediately send three Divine visitors?

One commentator points out that this is to teach us something about the treatment of the elderly. God thought that God knew best what Abraham needed-quiet and rest. When God realized that it was in Abraham’s nature to be hospitable and to greet people, and that Abraham was eager to get back to his usual habits, God sent visitors. We often think that we “know best’ what an elderly person needs. Yet, it is more dignified, if we can, to allow them to live in their old age as they lived in their youth-to give them as much control over their surroundings and their circumstances as we can, as God did with Abraham. This is not always possible- health and safety come first! But when we can, we should try to give our elderly family members and friends the dignity of making decisions for themselves, to give them control over the variables of their lives-as long as it does not put them in jeopardy.

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