The Neglected Jewels

Six days a week, our office is kept busy with feedback from our loyal readers. The many emails fill our inboxes, while others choose to help keep our fax machines churning or send handwritten or typed letters through the postal system. Then there are those who call, including some who leave anonymous voicemails during the wee hours of the morning.

The comments and questions range from effusive praise to vehement criticism, with significant helpings of opinions on a long list of public and private matters.

A sampling of these letters appears regularly in our newspaper section, as well as in our Inyan and Kinyan magazines.

Rarely, however, does a letter strike such a powerful chord as the following one we recently received:

You have a wonderful paper. I wish you would bring up the topic of how our youth should acknowledge their elders.

I’m talking about grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. It seems that the youth are involved in their own selfishness and friendships. I know of a great-granddaughter and great-grandson, away for a year, who didn’t even have the decency to go see their great-grandparents upon their return. Is this what they are taught in seminary and yeshivah?

Yes, they live in Monsey or Lakewood, and the great-grandparents live in Brooklyn. Is this an excuse? So much chessed is being performed when it comes to others, while their own great-grandmother is sitting home alone.

I’ve seen grandchildren who have no time for their grandfather, but lo and behold, when he was in the hospital, everyone made time. Do we have to wait until then? Is once a month asking too much? You, too, will grow older. Where is v’hadarta pnei zaken in this generation? They are zocheh to live longer. Let them enjoy the nachas until 120.

Signed “A distraught onlooker who would like to see some changes,” it prompted members of our staff to do some research of their own.

Much to our chagrin, we found ample proof that the writer is hardly alone in his observations. Sadly, far too many families have been afflicted by the insidious nature of modern American culture. Like precious jewels collecting dust in a forgotten corner, grandparents are often finding themselves all but ignored by their descendants.

For countless generations, grandparents were viewed as the beloved crown of the family, a venerated link to our glorious past and a priceless connection with our forefathers. Their advice and blessings were sought at every opportunity, and just to bask in their presence was considered an honor.

Then, as the children of Holocaust survivors grew up, many with only a vague knowledge of grandparents murdered in the war, an entire culture of bonding and connecting was lost. Now, baruch Hashem, we have a generation of youth who do have grandparents and great-grandparents, yet we fail to value and cherish this great privilege. We must internalize the fact that though the elders among us may be lonely and in need of our assistance, it is the young generation that really gains from every interaction.

There is a Yiddish saying, “Fortunate are the eyes that saw the eyes…” Every generation closer to the great ones of yesteryear, every generation closer to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, is on a much higher spiritual level. Filled with wisdom culled from life experience, there is so much we can and must learn from them.

It is often said that charity begins at home. In this case, young people would actually be charitable to themselves if they committed more time to connecting with those who brought their parents into this world.


Reprinted from Hamodia Sukkos 5773/2012.