Celebrating Longevity


“May I suggest that man’s potential for change and growth is much greater than we are willing to admit and that old age be regarded, not as the age of stagnation, but as the age of opportunities for inner growth? The years of old age may enable us to attain the high values we fail to sense, the insights we have missed, the wisdom we have ignored. They are indeed formative years, rich in the possibilities to unlearn the follies of a lifetime, to see through the inbred deceptions, to deepen understanding and compassion, to widen the horizon of honesty, to refine a sense of fairness.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1961 White House Conference on Aging.

Rabbi Akiva says that the people of Israel need their elders just as birds need wings. In this simile, the elders enable the people to ascend, even as the Divine Presence descends towards them. In addition, the elders protect the people from the intensity of their ascent.