If you are a young person, the title of this article probably does not make much of an impression. But if you have entered the “golden years,” your awareness of the meaning of the title is loud and clear. Am I right?
Uttered during the High Holidays, the tefila pleads with the Ribono Shel Olam (G-d): “Al tashlicheinu le’eis zikna. Kichlos kocheinu, al ta’azveinu – Do not cast us out in our old age. When our strength wanes, do not forsake us….”
So, let’s talk about old age. There are people who are 40 years young and act like zekeinim (oldsters), and there are zekeinim who are as youthful as ever. You may therefore wonder what establishes old age. The following are strategies to keep zikna at bay as long as possible:
Maintain a Sense of Humor
As we climb the ladder of age, our sense of humor should be traveling upward as well. Many of the things we once held important, we should now take with a metaphorical grain of salt (a substitute for the real salt we can’t eat anymore!).
For example, Mendel Vimpelstein was in the midst of praying with his congregation Ahavas Bronfin, which had what’s known as an exclusive “kiddish club.” To live up to its name, the group had a kiddish affair after services. Although not invited, Mendel decided to attend one of these post-prayer sessions. Now the kiddishers were an “exclusive” group, so Mendel did not gain membership. Fahrvoss (why)? you may ask. Perhaps it was because he was not a shnapps guzzler. Vehr vais (who knows)? After all, there are bigger aveiros (sins)! On the other hand, perhaps he was excluded because of his disdain for loshon hawraw (gossip).
One day, his curiosity got the better of him, however, and he decided to follow the group as they shlepped themselves to Yankel Greenshisel’s residence. Was he welcomed? you may ask. Decide for yourself as you review the comments made to Mendel by the kiddishers:
Comment: Vehrl hawt deer fahrbeten (who invited you)?
Response: Eliyahu Hanovi (Elijah the prophet).
Comment: Bist do ah shnorrer (are you a beggar)?
Response: A shnorrer dehrkent ah shnorrer (it takes one to know one)!
Comment: Bist fahloren gevorehn (did you get lost)?
Response: Ah kasha und ah miseh (some question)!
Mendel’s sense of humor prevailed, and he was pleased not to be a member of the club.
How does one remember not to forget?! Beryl Kabnofsky went to the store to purchase several senior citizen items. Included on his list were10 boxes of Kleenex, five bottles of antacid, and 10 pounds of Epson salt! He paid the cashier by placing his credit card with the “chip” into a new credit card contraption, which took longer to process than the previous system. When the transaction was completed, Beryl placed his credit card in a “secret” section of his wallet. Prior to exiting the store, he searched for the credit card. He searched his pockets and discovered a fahrshimelt (mildewed) Kleenex, a handful of change, his cell phone, and 20 dollars. The credit card had disappeared like a straw in the wind.
Next, he examined and reexamined his wallet, which contained his driver’s license, appointment cards for a half dozen physicians, wrinkled store receipts, and photos of his ainiklach (grandchildren), but the credit card? Ah nechtiger tog (gone with the wind) – it was nowhere in sight.
In desperation, Beryl returned to the counter to question the salesperson regarding the possibility of her misplacing the card. The girl responded that her grandfather also had trouble remembering. For some reason, her statement did not ease Beryl’s anxiety.
“Nu, it must have dropped in your counter,” said Beryl. The girl remained calm and searched the entire area but no credit card. As a final effort to locate the card, she asked Beryl for his wallet. He emitted a big laugh but complied. The clerk examined each compartment of the wallet and suddenly gave a geshrey (cry) of “Olay!” as she waved the card in the air.
Beryl was both happy and sad. He was happy that the card was found but sad that his memory was playing tricks on him. “Oy gevald,” he muttered, “Ahl tashlichenu!” A week later he visited the same store but instantly found his card. The difference was that he focused his attention on what he was doing.
Dispelling Negative Thoughts
Shmuel Smith was a manager in a car factory. Unfortunately, the firm produced faulty steering wheels and was being sued by many people. When the tsoress (troubles) increased, the company began going in drerd (collapsing) and Shmuel was fired. His reaction was twofold. On the one hand, he imagined taking a long trip to vehr vais (who knows where). On the other hand, he thought of a fabulous vacation taken a few years ago. He applied for another position, but his fahrzetsteh (broken) mindset reflected pessimism. Nu, who wants to hire a pessimist?
The next day, Shmuel found an album with photos of beautiful areas that he and his mishpacha had visited. His negative thinking changed with each page he turned. He placed some of the photos in an envelope for future reference.
One morning he applied for a position at a newly-established firm. He shlepped along the photos and glanced at them prior to the interview. They brought a smile to his face, and when he was interviewed for the job his feelings radiated outward and caused him to be regarded as a competent person. Therefore, he was hired. Shmuel had successfully dispelled his thoughts.
Maintaining Geduld (Patience)
As we age, our geduld may begin to wane. There is therefore a need to practice being patient. Shmeryl Hendleman’s quest for patience is a good example of such a practice. One morning, Shmerl went to the post office to claim a package that was not delivered. He entered to post office and noticed a very long line of people. Now this was not an ordinary line, because there were a series of “situations.” Nu, you may ask, voss hakst do ah chinek (why are you blabbering)? So let me explain.
In the line of people there was a hiccupping yenteh. These were not ordinary hiccups, you understand, rather each hiccup shook the room, so to speak. Iz doch genug (that’s enough), you may say. Not quite, because in addition to the hiccupping, there was an overly-talkative pre-hospital case who kept screaming that the postal staff should be fired. Then there was a kvetching mother with her jumping youngster and an alter tsuzets zaidy (broken-down old gramps) making strange noises!
All this did not bother Shmeryl, and he waited with geduld until his moment arrived. He gingerly handed his postal receipt to the mail clerk. She then asked for a document to prove his identity. Shmeryl searched for his driver’s license but, to his utter dismay, it was missing. His pleading hawt nish geholfen (did not help), and he left the post office uttering, “Zie geduldik, zie geduldik – be patient, be patient.” Thus, his geduld was maintained, and he returned later to retrieve his package and all ended well.
Ah klal (to sum up), we can postpone the zikna mentality by applying the above strategies and by maintaining our emuna (faith) that the Ribono Shel Olam will not forsake us.