No Margaritas for Me

As the U.S. population ages, many members of the baby boomer group are rejecting the elderly housing paradigm of their parents and grandparents.   An article in  The New York Times describes innovative senior housing in Florida whose name, Latitude Margaritaville, is based on a popular Jimmy Buffett song.  In describing this over 55 housing development designed to resemble a non-stop beach party, the article quotes a University of Iowa anthropologist who says, “We have no shared collective articulation for what later life is for, what the value of living longer is, except not dying…”

I guess that depends on what your definition of “collective” is. The Judeo-Christian tradition has a very clear understanding. While Latitude Margaritaville sounds like a fun place, ancient Jewish wisdom isn’t keen on separating the generations. Listen to this exchange between Moses and Pharaoh.

(Moses relating God’s message) …thus said the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
(Exodus 9:1)

And Pharaoh’s servants said to him…Let the men go,
so they may serve the Lord their God…
(Exodus 10:7)

…Pharaoh…said to them, Go, serve the Lord your God, but who exactly is going?
(Exodus 10:8)

And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds
(Exodus 10:9)

[Pharaoh said]…go now only you who are men and serve the Lord…
(Exodus 10:11)

And Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, Go, serve the Lord;
only let your flocks and your herds stay…
 (Exodus 10:24)

God planned to take the entire people of Israel out of Egypt—the young, the old and the middle-aged along with their material wealth as represented by their livestock.  Pharaoh’s courtiers advised him to placate the God of the Hebrews by temporarily allowing the males between twenty and sixty to go worship in the desert.

Considering that advice, Pharaoh asked Moses to clarify exactly who would go.  Moses answered unequivocally that it would be everyone as well as their possessions.  When Pharaoh tried to limit the group by arguing that only the men are needed to worship God,  Moses rejected that offer. God inflicted more torment upon Egypt.  Pharaoh made one last attempt to prevent an intact people launching their destiny by restricting their economic freedom through retaining their livestock.  This offer was also rejected. After the final plague, Israel left Egypt with all its population and all its possessions.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Pharaoh knew that Egypt was finished. His goal was to prevent Israel from becoming a powerful nation whose success would dim the luster of his legacy.  The best way to do that would be by depriving this incipient nation of its past (the elderly), of its future (the young), and by restricting its working-age individuals’ economic vitality.  Pharaoh correctly knew that a bunch of people whose focus was only on surviving today would soon be gone and forgotten.

Centuries later, at the time of the Chanuka story, the Greek-Syrians similarly attacked the past, present and future of the Jewish people. They banned circumcision, an act that seals Jewish baby boys into the community (the future); the Sabbath, which draws our attention to God’s dominion over us as our Creator (the past); and the holidays, those days around which we our current year circulates (the present).

Families, communities, businesses and nations gain their vitality and sense of purpose from the past and future.  A home filled with the rambunctious noise of little children while also possessing the seasoned presence of wise grandparents possesses strength. Likewise, a business is propelled forward by a sense of purpose gained by making its past and its future just as important as  its present. Expanding its employees’ vision to encompass everything from its founding to its tomorrow makes their work today more satisfying and successful.  A nation without a shared collective understanding that its older members must pass down values to younger generations is standing on fragile ground.

Similarly, living only among people of your own age group is intrinsically unhealthy.

Moses and the Israelites understood this lesson as did the Maccabees who waged a civil war against those Hellenized Jews who absorbed the Greek, rather than the Jewish message, about time. It is a lesson that is still vitally important today.

10 thoughts on “No Margaritas for Me”

  1. I overheard this at the gas station-“Imagine if your cell phone battery was at 10 percent and lasted eight days. That’s what Chanukah is like.” Still laughing!

  2. Mr. Snover has it right. Public schools can be very destructive to kids precisely because they isolate them with their own age group in an unrealistic, false society whee only 10 years olds exist and maybe one or two adults now and then but frequently just the kids. Or whatever age. And the suffocating socialism preached by college professors and teachers’ assistants is so constant it numbs the brain.

  3. When I was young and went to college I did not like living in a sea of 18 to 22 year old kids. Now I know why. Also I did not like the religion of State Universities, Drugs, Alcihol, Rock and sick modern musuc, immorality, evil looshin or deadly Darwinianism, and the absence of the God of Israel and His law and words and respect for them. Without our Judeo Christian heritage America would be just another hell hole on earth, and if we lose that that is exactly what we shall becom.

  4. When I read the story of Exodus, specifically of how Pharaoh wanted to split up the men, women, and children, I thought of the “caravan” (migration?) from Central America and Southern Mexico to the US border. The Jews left to find freedom, of course, while the people in the Caravan are primarily looking for jobs. Are there any parallels between them, Rabbi?

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      I don’t really believe so, Mike,
      The Israelites entered Canaan and made war against any of those inhabitants who opposed them. They asked nothing of anyone, assuming the responsibility of feeding themselves in a new and hostile land. In this way, they resembled the later arrivals of the Pilgrims in North America. Neither the Israelites nor the Pilgrims expected the ‘locals’ to provide them with anything. On the contrary, within a short period of time, the newcomers were feeding the locals. The ‘caravan’ of which you speak has been demanding to be transported, fed, and medicated all their way through Mexico as a precursor to how they intend demanding the same benefits if they arrive in the USA.

      1. I have no problem with anyone from any where that wants to be an American legally. I don’t want anyone who just wants to be in America, illegally.

  5. So powerful!

    You’ve told us previously the the Hebrew word “Avodah” is used in verse 9:1 for the English word “worship”. I’m curious if the same word “Avodah” is used by pharaoh’s servants in verse 10:7? In other words, did they recognize the full meaning of the request in their reply?

    More importantly, based on the lessons of this chapter I’m wondering if there’s a “family/generational unity” element to the concept of “Avodah” ?

    Combining these lessons with the lessons taught in your fantastic Noah’s ark teaching (“The Gathering Storm…”) is proving to be very motivating and informative in the direction my family is taking in building a generationally successful business.

    God richly bless you my friend!


  6. From the events of family life it is evident that togetherness provides a sense of continuity and purpose to the family. But the sense of togetherness develops by stops and starts, by advances followed by plateaus, as dictated by the age of children and the wisdom and capacity of each age. When my daughters were very young, they hung on each and every word of their father and mother. And at advanced adolescence, so oft they would roll their eyes to heaven, as if to say: “Oh Jeez, do we have to hear this old hat stuff again?”

    Suddenly, after they reach age 30, their father and mother occupy the pinnacle of wisdom: ‘Oh Dad, you are so smart,” and “Oh Mom, what should I do now?” One telephones twice a week, the other (who did the most eye-rolling) telephones twice a day. Seeing into the future is not hard: one can foresee that day when they will say: “Oh dear…I wonder what Dad would say?” My own father was not always right, but oh how I miss his counsel! The Lord wants us to live together with our elders, and for good reason. A college pal of mine once wrote a song: ‘Why Do They Shut Them Away Like Fools?’ The modern Progressive societal rejection and programmed quarantine of the elderly from productive society will wreak disastrous consequences all around, as the young forget their roots and ignore the skills their elders learned from precept and in the bitter school of hard knocks.

  7. Aloha Rabbi:

    Thank you very much for taking the time to share such great wisdom. As a history teacher, I genuinely appreciate it and will post accordingly in my classroom. Much food for thought – and yet so much more that I would like to know.

    As an educator, the term “inter-generational learning model” comes to mind. And really, that’s not so foreign around the Pacific and on reservations. And truthfully, there are so many places to start (i.e. challenges in the global commons, etc.).

    All the best,

    Mike Daniels

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