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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 11, 2006 / 20 Kislev, 5767

Stand up for elders' rights

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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Nudging others to perform the mitzvah to honor an old person


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: It bothers me when fellow passengers don't stand up for older people, yet I am reluctant to start giving moral instruction to complete strangers. What should I do?


A: The most important thing is to provide a seat for someone who has difficulty standing, whether due to age, some handicap, or even a healthy person you can just see is exhausted or sore. This is a simple fulfillment of the mitzvah (religious duty) to help the needy; the Torah tells us to help the needy person "what he is lacking" (Deuteronomy 15:8), whether this is money, aid, or any other need.


But it also appropriate to offer your seat to any older person. The Torah commands us, "Rise before the gray, and honor the old; fear you G-d, I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:32.) The "rising" mentioned in the verse is a show of honor and respect, and the Talmud states that we are not obligated to suffer a loss in order to show this honor. (1) However, there is no doubt that rising to assist an older person, such as by giving him or her a seat on the bust, is a great honor and a praiseworthy act.


The great medieval authority Nachmanides gives this commandment as an example of how the Torah commands us to "do the right and the straight in the eyes of the Lord" (Commentary on Deuteronomy 6:18). In other words, honoring elders is a fundamental ethical principle.

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In the Talmudic discussion on this verse, some sages were of the opinion that the "old" in the verse means elders in the sense of leaders and sages. But the conclusion is that any old person needs to be honored: "Issi ben Yehuda says, 'Rise before the gray' — any old person is implied." (1) One understanding is that Issi ben Yehuda doesn't dispute the understanding of "elders"; he merely maintains that we should assume that any older person has acquired wisdom and experience which should be honored and acknowledged.


What about nudging others to perform this mitzvah? Judaism certainly doesn't encourage us to be busy-bodies constantly paying attention to the conduct of others, but it also doesn't teach the extreme neutrality and privacy sometimes idealized in modern urban society. Encouraging others to do good deeds is encouraged, and the Talmud even states, "One who induces others to a [good] deed, is greater than one who performs a [good] deed himself." (2) So there is no reason to be ashamed to turn to someone in a gentle and respectful way and point out that there is an old or frail person standing nearby.


However, in this respect I would limit such an approach to the case of a passenger who has difficulty standing, where the mitzvah is to provide for his needs, and not disturb others in the case of a healthy elderly person, where the mitzvah is primarily one of honor. The main reason is that there is little honor in such an act. The moment this gesture of respect is motivated only by some external influence, like a fellow passenger, it loses most of its meaning. Another consideration is that some older people, especially today when many seniors look and feel quite youthful, may actually be embarrassed to be singled out for honor because of their age. This is not a reason for you yourself to refrain from offering them a seat as a gesture of respect; older people still deserve this recognition, even if they ultimately decline it. But it does make it superfluous to nudge others.


Finally, even if you do your best to be gentle and inoffensive in your approach to the sitting passenger, there is always the slight chance that he or she may be offended, and honoring one person should never be achieved at the risk of embarrassing someone else.


Even in the case of a frail or handicapped individual, when it may well be appropriate to point out their presence to a sitting passenger, it is of the utmost importance to be understated. This is not only because of general principles of good manners but also because you need to judge the sitter favorably. Even a person who looks young and healthy may be tired or injured or otherwise find it difficult to stand. The same chapter of Leviticus which commands us to honor the old also tells us, "Judge your fellow man righteously" (Leviticus 19:15) — give him the benefit of the doubt.


SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 32b (2) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Basra 9a

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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Previously:

Garage sale gem
By taking my relative in, am I helping or making the situation worse?
Public Service or Public Relations?
Do professionals need to strive for complete objectivity?
Does future reward make ethical behavior selfish?
The whole truth — Even in the marketplace?
Judaism and the afterlife: Reincarnation, heaven and hell
The Jewish belief in resurrection of the dead affects how will live in the here and now
Ethical guidelines on what to say and what's proper to keep to yourself
Is it wrong to get credit for something you didn't do?
Ethics and sportsmanship
The ethics of forwarding email
Must a supplier honor a discount offered by a rogue sales representative?
Should I boycott my daughter's fashion show?
Should you respond to all those annoying email pop-up requests?
Do I have to reimburse someone who tried to do me a favor?
Seeking credit card debt settlement
Can I threaten to spread the word about someone who cheated me?
How can the terminally ill tap into their life insurance?
Is there value in an unhappy marriage?
Where does the Almighty fit into your corporation's mission statement?
Does an expert witness have to be impartial?
Should I give recognition to a modest man who did a great deed?
In representing my firm, can I tell a white lie?
Defrauding insurance to save a life
Can top level management unilaterally give away money to corporate dollars to charity?
Loans to Family Members
How much worker supervision is too much?
Should I turn in a colleague for inappropriate acts?
Priority in charitable giving
Trolls and ogres
How many hours of work is too many?
Can I promote my product by having it unobtrusively written into a story?
He's not heavy he's my brother
All's fair in war?, II
All's fair in war?
Girth vs. worth
Is it proper to tax bequests?
Ethics of Being Overweight
Penalized for working swiftly
When is it a bluff?
'Rate and switch'
My paycheck is late!
Should schools cater to an elite?
All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?







© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics