Growing Older

American society has trained us to regard the waning of a person’s physical power as a failing, and to view people of advanced age as less able to produce and achieve.

Some encourage older people to look positively at this change: “You’ve earned the right to take it easy. You deserve a rest.” Others put it more bluntly: “You’re no longer useful; it’s time to make room for others.”

This tendency to push people into retirement affects the mentality of the people themselves. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as many resign themselves to living less productive and meaningful lives [as they age].

The Torah offers a different outlook, stating:1 “An abundance of years will endow knowledge.” Our Sages explain2 that as Torah scholars grow older, their understanding becomes more settled. Nor does this apply solely to scholars; our Sages instruct3 us to stand in respect for even an unlearned person who is advanced in years, for the very experiences that he has undergone grant him insight and perception unavailable to a younger person.

Since man is fundamentally a thinking being, as a person’s understanding increases with age, there is no reason that his activity should not also increase. A seasoned person has the ability to serve as a resource for others, aiding them with guidance and counsel. This allows him to exert a far more comprehensive influence than was possible in his youth, when his energies were spent primarily in pursuit of his own development.

Pushing an aged person aside thus causes great waste, not only for the person himself, but for those who seek to displace him. They deprive themselves of the wisdom that comes with age; the sheer energy of younger men cannot possibly compensate for the loss of such wisdom.

This is particularly true in the present age, when advances in technology and communication have reduced the importance of physical exertion. Now more than ever, it is knowledge and understanding that power economic and social growth. In such an era, individuals who possess these qualities in abundance should be treasured, not cast aside!

It is natural to strive for more than one has, as our Sages state:4 “Whoever possesses 100 seeks 200.” An advance in age should not dampen this drive. On the contrary, the knowledge and insight that come only with experience should spur us to pursue larger and more far-reaching goals. We are told:5 “Man was born to toil.” As a person’s years are lengthened, his toil — and its fruits — should also grow.

On the other hand, as a person goes forward in life, there is a place for a redefinition of priorities, for at any age, it is living — not merely making a living — that is of fundamental importance. As a person grows older, financial burdens become less. Children marry and begin living independently. This provides an opportunity to refocus one’s ambition. In earlier years, there might have been times when a person “ate, slept, and drank his business.” Now there is a chance for a person to lift his eyes to other horizons and augment his spiritual growth. The fact that a person’s physical vigor is waning and his wisdom is increasing6 should give him insight into the area he chooses to direct his energies.

The heightened spiritual awareness that results will infuse vitality into every dimension of experience, enabling him to live a truly full life. This in turn will give him the opportunity to anticipate — and thus precipitate — the ultimate of all human experience, the Era of the Redemption, when:7 “Older men and older women will once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.” May this take place in the immediate future.

Growing Old

The Torah considers old age a virtue and a blessing. Throughout the Torah, “old” (zakein) is synonymous with “wise”; the Torah commands us to respect all of the elderly, regardless of their scholarship and piety, because the many trials and experiences that each additional year of life brings yield a wisdom which the most accomplished young prodigy cannot equal.

The Torah describes Abraham as one who “grew old and came along in days” (Bereishis 24:1) — his accumulated days, each replete with learning and achievement, meant that with each passing day, his worth increased. Thus, a ripe old age is regarded as one of the greatest blessings to be bestowed upon man.

This is in marked contrast with the prevalent attitude in the “developed” countries of today’s world. In the 20th-century western world, old age is a liability. Youth is seen as the highest credential in every field from business to government, where a younger generation insists on “learning from their own mistakes” rather than building upon the life experience of their elders.

At 50, a person is considered “over the hill” and is already receiving hints that his position would be better filled by someone twenty-five years his junior; in many companies and institutions, retirement is mandatory by age 65 or earlier.

Thus society dictates that one’s later years be marked by inactivity and decline. The aged are made to feel that they are useless if not a burden, and had best confine themselves to retirement villages and nursing homes.

After decades of achievement, their knowledge and talent are suddenly worthless; after decades of contributing to society, they are suddenly undeserving recipients, grateful for every time the younger generation takes off from work and play to drop by for a half-hour chat and the requisite Father’s Day necktie.

On the surface, the modern-day attitude seems at least partly justified. Is it not a fact that a person physically weakens as he advances in years? True, the inactivity of retirement has been shown to be a key factor in the deterioration of the elderly, but is it still not an inescapable fact of nature that the body of a 70-year-old is not the body of a 30-year-old?

But this, precisely, is the point: is a person’s worth to be measured by his physical prowess? By the number of man-hours and intercontinental flights that can be extracted from him per week?

What is at issue here is more than the disenfranchisement of an entire segment of the population whose only crime is that they were born a decade or two earlier than the rest; our attitude toward the aged reflects our very conception of “value.”

If a person’s physical strength has waned while his sagacity and insight have grown, do we view this as an improvement or a decline? If a person’s output has diminished in quantity but has increased in quality, has his net worth risen or fallen?

Indeed, a twenty-year-old can dance the night away while his grandmother tires after a few minutes. But man was not created to dance for hours on end. Man was created to make life on earth purer, brighter and holier than it was before he came on the scene.

Seen in this light, the spiritual maturity of the aged more than compensates for their lessened physical strength; indeed, the diminution of one’s physical drives can be even utilized as a spiritual asset, as it allows a positive reordering of priorities that is much more difficult in one’s youth when the quest for material gains is at its height.

Certainly, the physical health of the body affects one’s productivity. Life is a marriage of body and soul, and is at its most productive when nurtured by a sound body as well as a healthy spirit. But the effects of the aging process upon a person’s productivity are largely determined by the manner in which he regards this marriage and partnership.

Which is the means and which is the end? If the soul is nothing more than an engine to drive the body’s procurement of its needs and aims, then the body’s physical weakening with age brings with it a spiritual deterioration as well — a descent into boredom, futility and despair.

But when one regards the body as an accessory to the soul, the very opposite is true: the spiritual growth of old age invigorates the body, enabling one to lead a productive existence for as long as the A-lmighty grants one the gift of life.

Life: A Definition

But there is more to it than that. There is more to the difference between the Torah’s perspective on old age and that of the modern world than the classic dichotomy between body and soul, more than the question of material versus spiritual priority.

At the basis of the institution of retirement is the false notion that life is composed of productive and non-productive periods. The first 20-30 years of life are seen as a time of little or no achievement, as a person acquires knowledge and training in preparation for the productive period of life.

The next 30-40 years is the time in which his or her creative energies are realized; he now returns what has been invested in him by his now passive elders, and invests, in turn, in the still passive younger generation. Finally, as he enters his “twilight years,” he puts his period of “real” achievement behind him; he has worked hard “all his life,” so he now ought to settle down and enjoy the fruits of his labors.

If the creative urge still agitates his aging body, he is advised to find some harmless hobby with which to fill his time. Indeed, time is now something to be “filled” and gotten over with as he wiles away his days on life’s sidelines; his knowledge and abilities filed away in the attic of old age. He has now returned full circle to his childhood: once again he is a passive recipient in a world shaped and run by the initiative of others.

Torah, however, recognizes no such distinction between life’s phases, for it sees productivity as the very essence of life: the words “a non-productive life-period” are an oxymoron. There are marked differences between childhood, adulthood, etc., but these differ in the manner, not the fact, of a person’s productivity.

Retirement and the passive enjoyment of the fruits of one’s labor also have their time and place — in the World to Come. In the words of the Talmud, “Today, is the time to do; tomorrow, to reap the reward.” The very fact that G‑d has granted a person a single additional day of bodily life means that he has not yet concluded his mission in life, that there is still something for him to achieve in this world.

Thus, the adage “Man is born to toil” (Iyov 5:7) expresses a most basic fact of human nature. A person experiences true satisfaction only from something he has earned by his own effort and initiative; undeserved gifts and handouts (“the bread of shame” in Kabbalistic terminology) are unfulfilling and dehumanizing. As the Talmud observes, “A person would rather a single measure of his own grain than nine measures of his fellow’s.”

A working adult, burdened by the demands of life, may nostalgically reminisce on his childhood “paradise” as a time of freedom from responsibility and toil. As a child, however, he disdained such paradise, desiring only to do something real and creative.

Challenge a child with responsibility, and he’ll flourish; cast him as a passive, unproductive recipient of “education,” and he’ll grow despondent and rebellious. For the child, too, is alive, and as such craves achievement; from the moment of birth he is already actively influencing his surroundings, if only by stimulating his parents with his thirst for knowledge and affection.

The same is true of adults of all ages. The promise of a “happy retirement” is a cruel myth: the very nature of human life is that man knows true happiness only when creatively contributing to the world he inhabits. The weakened physical state of old age (or illness, G‑d forbid) is not a sentence of inactivity, but a challenge to find new — and superior — venues of achievement.

Why

Indeed, such is human nature: life has meaning only when it is productive. But why? Why was the human being so constructed?

Because G‑d created man to be His partner in creation.

The Midrash tells us that “G‑d says to the righteous: ‘Just as I am a Creator of worlds, you, too, should do so.’” The Midrash also recounts an exchange between a Greek philosopher and Talmudic sage Rabbi Hoshiah: “If circumcision is desirable to G‑d,” asked the philosopher, “why didn’t He create Adam circumcised?”

Replied Rabbi Hoshiah: “Everything that was created in the Six Days of Creation requires adjustment and improvement by man: the mustard seed must be sweetened, wheat must be milled....” G‑d specifically created an unfinished world for man to develop and perfect.

G‑d is the ultimate initiator and giver, granting us existence and life and equipping us with faculties and resources. But G‑d wanted more than passive recipients of His gifts. He wanted a partnership with us — a partnership in which we would create and give as He creates and gives, and He would receive from us as we receive from Him. So He made the drive for achievement the very essence of human life.

A Course of Action

The sad fact remains, however, that retirement, mandatory or otherwise, is a fact of modern living. Year after year, it destroys millions of lives and condemns invaluable human resources (indeed, the most valuable human resources we possess as a race) to complete or near-complete waste.

What is one to do in the face of this human and social tragedy? Should one embark on a campaign to change this practice and the value system that lies behind it? Should one look for the brighter side of retirement and seek to utilize its positive aspects?

Indeed, we must do both. We must change the attitudes of the leaders of the business and professional worlds, and of society as a whole. Most of all, we must change the self-perception of the aged (and the near-aged, and the near-near-aged) themselves. We must tell them: You are not useless; on the contrary, you are a greater asset to society than ever before, and with each passing day and experience your value increases.

The life-changes you are experiencing as a result of your advancing years are not a cause for retirement from productive life, but the opportunity to discover new and more meaningful ways to develop yourself and your surroundings. Long life is a Divine gift, and the A-lmighty has certainly supplied you with the tools to optimally realize it.

At the same time, we must utilize the opportunities that the institution of retirement presents us. If there are countless retired men and women desperately seeking ways to fill their time, let us establish for them centers of Torah study, where they can drop in for several hours a day and increase their knowledge and productivity.

Let us open such centers in every community and set up classes and workshops in every nursing home. If the struggles of the workplace prevented many from acquiring the Torah’s illuminating perspective on life in their younger years, retirement provides a golden opportunity to learn and grow: education, like productivity, is a life-long endeavor.

Torah will give them a new lease on life. It will enlighten them to their true worth and potential, and transform them into beacons of light for their families and communities.

(Based on talks delivered by the Rebbe on his 70th birthday,
Nissan 11, 5732 , and ten years later on his 80th birthday)

The Beauty of the Elderly

In recent decades, a tendency has developed to view age as a serious handicap. Anyone past fifty is liable to be considered “a bit past it,” and family and friends explain that he isn’t as young as he used to be and should start taking things easier.

Soon the older man starts getting subtle hints that he’d better consider retiring himself honorably now before it will have to be done for him, especially if there’s an ambitious young man on his heels eager to elbow him out of his position and who is hinting to the boss that his elderly colleague be eased out of his position.

A younger person is considered more capable and cheaper, too, starting out at a lower salary. If the older man must be kept, they’ll do him the favor of giving him some minor niche in the company hierarchy, perhaps even asking his advice occasionally, but of course not following this advice.

When retirement age finally arrives, he has come to accept second-class status as a fact of life. The popular view of old people as incompetent and useless has influenced him to the extent that he feels superfluous and a burden to those around him. This has a negative effect psychologically: he gets depressed and resentful, with a resultant harmful effect on his physical health.

Soon he is sent off to a nursing-home and his children do him a favor and take a half-hour off from golf or the beach to visit him. They constantly remind him, of course, how much it costs them to support him at the nursing home.

Once a year comes Fathers Day and after sending out his secretary to buy a fancy tie, the son speeds off to the nursing-home to present it to his father: “See, Dad, I didn’t forget you!” After not more than a half-hour of his valuable time wasted, he speeds back to his own affairs where he can continue with a clear conscience until next year, when he’ll buy another tie with an even fancier pattern.

This attitude is even justified in the name of progress. As technology advances, and automation reduces the need for workers in many fields, some become superfluous and need to be laid off: What better than to retire those closest to retirement age, giving them the rare benefit of taking things easy even earlier than usual.

Most unfortunate is the fact that society thereby turns its back on the tremendous stock of hard-learned experience older people possess. They have been through various trials and tribulations, have learned ways of coping with many of life’s toughest problems, and can be an invaluable source of sage counsel to younger people lacking this experience.

This is true in the family and community; it is also true in business and industry. The older man has learned things the hard way: he built up the business, developed new methods, and learned from his mistakes the correct way to get things done.

Such a priceless store of knowledge is acquired only over the course of many years. Here is a man well-qualified to train and advise younger colleagues, who has often experienced similar problems to those they are now encountering and has learned how to utilize the situation to its best advantage. By heeding his sound advice (since it is backed up by his many years of experience), they can avoid costly mistakes.

But instead of utilizing this valuable asset to the fullest, instead of showing gratitude for his years of faithful service to the company and for training the younger workers (perhaps even his own sons and nephews) and showing them the ropes, society now takes the misguided attitude that it is better to replace him with someone younger, who is often unfamiliar with the most elementary fundamentals of the job. Quality is sacrificed for the doubtful advantage of youth.

Retired people, who are growing in number as life-expectancy increases, soon assimilate society’s view of them as useless and superfluous, especially if they were forcibly retired in order to make way for younger men.

If they don’t enter an old-age home, they root around aimlessly between one meal and the next, between activities at the senior citizens’ center and maybe a little shopping or a stroll down the block. Otherwise they are at a complete loss to know what to do with themselves.

In the nursing homes, too, the problem is just as bad. The staff is at its wits’ end to find new activities and original ways of keeping the old people pleasurably occupied.

It is a great pity that this attitude has become so deeply engraved in the country’s mentality. All strata of society, up to and including the government of the country, could benefit immeasurably from the collective experience and expertise of these elder people.

Perhaps the full burden of work should indeed be alleviated for them as their strength ebbs and health sometimes fails. But to retire them completely from active life is both unkind to them and shortsighted for society.

Younger men who share this attitude would be well-advised to consider the likely consequences. In the present century, trends, especially undesirable ones, tend to gain momentum more and more rapidly, just as jobs that used to take days and years can now be done in a fraction of the time.

There is a strong possibility that those who are now young will be called old by the next generation at least ten years earlier than the age at which they now consider their own predecessors old!

In fact this is alluded to in the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother so that your days may be lengthened upon the earth that the L‑rd your G‑d gives you.” If you want your own days lengthened in respected and useful contribution to society, then honor and respect your own elders now.

That one of the initial commands of the Ten Commandments given to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai — and engraved upon the Two Tablets of stone — is respect for elders, is a mark of its prominent place in the Torah.

The Torah viewpoint on this is totally opposite to that of modern society. Longevity and old age are considered in the Torah one of the greatest possible blessings. “Many years bring wisdom” (Iyov 32:7), says the Biblical verse. “The older elderly scholars get, the more settled their minds become,” says the Talmud (end of Tractate Kinnim).

Members of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court and governing body during the Biblical and Mishnaic eras) would normally have to be over the age of seventy. The Torah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 244:1) tells us to rise before old people aged seventy or older, even if they are not Torah scholars, out of respect “for the trials and tribulations they have undergone” (Kiddushin 33a).

The concept of retirement simply does not exist in the Torah. From birth until his last moment, the Jew is permanently enlisted in the “Army of G‑d,” for he is “created to serve his Master” and cannot resign his post.

On the contrary, the later years of life, free of pressures to provide for a growing family, free from the hustle and bustle of the business world, are an excellent opportunity for intensified Torah study. Now one can finally make up for time lost during the younger years.

Instead of wallowing in resentment, one who is forced to retire should reflect on the true reason for this having happened to him. The company’s reasons are not important. There can be no doubt that the Creator, Who guides and controls the world, has placed him in a situation where his extra leisure time may be utilized to the fullest.

When he was in the world of intense competition, business was often not conducted in the most ethical manner. He was constantly subject to temptation to encroach upon the domain of others, to slander and to deal dishonestly, and other vices enumerated in Jewish Civil Law (Choshen Mishpat — the fourth section of the Shulchan Aruch).

Now, instead of burdening his mind with supervising his subordinates or flattering the directors, instead of racking his brain for ways to make more money or keep the business afloat on non-existent foundations, he can truly be his own boss and devote several hours a day to Torah study.

Fortunately his health is still good, and he will probably find that his mind has mellowed over the years and that he understands the subject matter better than would a younger person.

To facilitate Torah study among the elderly, it would be a good idea to create a suitable framework by establishing special Torah-study groups with fixed times of study, where older people could learn in the companionship of others of similar age.

Subjects of study should be chosen in consultation with the participants in accordance with their level of knowledge, and should also include the weekly Torah portion which can unite all such groups throughout the world.

The groups should gather for study before or after one of the three daily prayers, and a charity-box should be placed upon the table at the time of study (and, better still, in addition, a free-loan fund founded in conjunction with the study-group).

Thus all groups will be united in a worldwide community based on the “Three pillars upon which the world stands: Torah, avodah (prayer), and gemilus chassadim (charitable deeds).”

It would also be advisable to give the study groups an attractive name to encourage older people to join. A good name would be Colel — the name given these days to institutions of learning for young men after marriage.

These groups should also be given the extra name of Tiferes Zekeinim” (Beauty of the Elderly), reminiscent of “Tiferes Bachurim groups established in Soviet Russia with the assistance of the Previous Rebbe, in the 1920’s, to enable those unable to enroll in the underground yeshivos to continue their Torah study on a part-time basis.

Also, since this proposal was initiated on the 20th of Av, the anniversary of the passing (in 1944) of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson8 (the Rav of Yekaterinoslav in the Ukraine till 1939), who bravely dedicated his life, in face of tremendous difficulties and dangers, to advancement of Torah study for those of all ages including the elderly, it would only be fair to add his name, too — Colel Tiferes Zekeinim Levi Yitzchok. However, since the main intention of this proposal is to increase Torah study, the name is not of prime importance.

It would encourage greater and more regular attendance if a weekly or monthly monetary allowance would be provided — it would stimulate a greater sense of obligation among the participants. But again, this is not essential but depends upon local circumstances — whatever is considered most likely to have the best results.

Old-age homes, where the staff is so desperately seeking new ways of keeping the old people occupied and happy, are especially suitable for introducing these Torah-study groups.

Similar groups should be founded for women, not called “Colel” but under the name “Tiferes Chochmas Noshim” (Beauty of the Women’s Wisdom).

Although the duty of Torah study does not apply to women in the same way as it does to men, there has never been a more appropriate time to foster Torah study among them as the present.

Women possess qualities of kindness, gentleness and sympathy in greater measure than men. They are eminently well-suited to influence other women, including younger women and even girls, to come closer to Torah and mitzvos.

They should study the laws of those mitzvos that apply to women, especially kashrus and taharas hamishpachah, and also the weekly Torah portion and basic concepts of Jewish belief. Then, in addition to their aforementioned inherent qualities, they will also be armed with a wealth of Torah explanation that can add further force to their arguments.

This can be used to help those to whom they speak to establish their households upon the foundations of Torah Judaism and to avoid practices that run contrary to its spirit. They can also encourage their children or grandchildren to give their own children a Jewish education and can even help to avoid potential cases of intermarriage.

The implementation of this proposal will contribute considerably toward removing older people’s feelings of inferiority to others. Instead of depression at their “sorry” lot, they have the choice of making their later years truly “golden years” by filling them with Torah content — developing their feelings and deeds of kindness and charity towards others, and particularly Torah study. And Torah has the unique quality that once one delves into it, one comes to truly appreciate its depth and enjoy studying it.

An older person can then be a respected member of the community, studying Torah on a daily basis with others of similar age and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.

He will feel confident to approach a younger man experiencing problems and, with a friendly pat on the back, explain how he went through similar rough times and learned not to despair.

At the same time, he can tell him a suitable saying of our Sages or a story from Talmud or Midrash, and encourage him to view things optimistically. In this role, the older man will certainly feel better than when he was embroiled in the heat of the business world and had no time for other people.

The main point to bear in mind in all this is to increase Torah study among all Jews, particularly the elderly. We must also foster a new approach towards old people, for they have unnecessarily been made to suffer, through no fault of their own, by the modern short-sighted attitude towards the aged.

Our Sages tell us (Yalkut Shimoni, Eichah 1034) that when one studies Torah, G‑d Himself, the Giver of the Torah, repeats the same Torah passage opposite him. And when the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, the Midrash tells us that G‑d appeared to the Jewish people as a “kindly, white-bearded Patriarch, full of mercy.”

An old person invited to enter one of these Torah-study groups should visualize how G‑d Himself stands opposite him, repeating the same words of Torah that he says or hears, and that G‑d is also the “Ancient One of Days,” sharing with him the attribute of oldness that so becomes Him.

May they, too, realize how old age can be made becoming and respected, as our Rabbis translate the word zaken (old) — Zeh shekanah chochmah (one who has acquired wisdom) — by studying Torah and acquiring its wisdom, and using it to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

(Excerpted from the farbrengens of Shabbos Parshas Eikev, 20 Av; Motzaei Shabbos Eikev; Shabbos Parshas Re’eh and Rosh Chodesh Elul, 57409 )

Lighten the Workload — Do Not Retire

In reply to your letter of Tuesday in which you write about your health status and the opinion of the doctors relating to [retiring from] your rabbinical position, as well as the effect this has had on your congregants and their protests:

Hopefully, when you give the matter adequate thought, you will surely find a way to lighten your workload and remain in your current position, doing so in a manner that your doctor will also be satisfied.

Taking into consideration that physicians are also of the opinion that a person must be occupied (although not above and beyond his physical capacity), while idleness is unhealthy [not only mentally but] for the body as well, I would think that not only will the doctor agree that you retain your current position albeit with a lightened workload, but moreover, he will advise you to do so.

[This is] particularly so, since the “merit of the multitude”10 [whom you are assisting] will stand you in good stead, as you are surely doing good things for Judaism and spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus in your community.

May the “merit of the multitude assist you” in achieving a speedy healing, and an overall improvement in your health and success in all your endeavors.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVI, p. 48)

Working During the “Golden Years”

.. You write that it pains you that your mother has to work at her [advanced] age:

Understandably, not all types of labor are alike. But as a matter of principle, it is specifically when people reach such an age that it is important to see that they are occupied with some form of work, as this draws their attention away from their various ailments, etc.

We verily see that work (that is compatible with the person’s health status) is crucial to the person’s health and well-being.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 491)

Writing a Will — A Segulah for Longevity

.. I received your letter dated the 9th of Sivan as well as [the letter dated] the 4th [day] of [parshas] Korach and the attached will, [something which will only become relevant] after you live a long life. It is said that writing a will is itself a segulah for longevity.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 373)

Good Health and “Lengthy and Good Years”
By Memorizing Sections of the Mishnah

In reply to your letter with the enclosed pidyon nefesh — which I will read at an auspicious time at the holy resting place of my father-in-law, the Rebbe — in which you ask for a blessing for improved health and for long and goodly years — goodness that of course includes the crucial aspect of genuinenachas from your progeny:

There is the well-known directive of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, which he mentioned to many individuals, that one should memorize sections of the Mishnah during one’s older years. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 130)

Possible Heart Problems May Not Be That at All —
But Simply a Symptom of Menopause

In reply to your letter from the 19th of Menachem Av, in which you write about your aunt tichye:

According to the way you describe her situation, there is room to say that her heart is in order and her pain is caused by the changes she is undergoing at her age (changes in the menses and its cessation, etc.). It would be worthwhile to draw the doctor’s attention to, or ask him about, this.

If this should prove to be so, there are specific simple treatments that will greatly alleviate the condition. Most importantly — when she will know the cause of her pain [that it is only a result of menopause,] then this will calm her greatly, and this in itself is very valuable.

I will mention your aunt ... in prayer and for a blessing at an auspicious time at the tziyun (the sacred resting place) of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of blessed memory, for all her needs.

Your aunt is surely aware of the fine custom of Jewish women of giving tzedakah before lighting the candles every erev Shabbos and erev Yom Tov. She should at least begin doing so from now on.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 372)

Special Sensitivity Is Required at the Time of Menopause

Almost all Jews have dissimilar opinions — similar to those differences in opinion between you and your wife. The reason for this is that G‑d desired — and in this matter He created man — that no two people think alike.11

At the time of the beginning of the cessation of the menses, it is common that all matters are received in a much more sensitive manner (including the above, [i.e., differences of opinion]).

Among the advisable and prudent manners of behavior that will ameliorate the situation are to refrain from debates and arguments (by changing the discussion to another matter), and to positively affect her in an indirectand non-threatening manner, and the like.

Obviously you are to conduct yourself in keeping with the law stated in Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, the conclusion of laws of Onaah [where the Alter Rebbestates that women are to be treated with tenderness since they have a more sensitive nature]. Also [it is important that you] give her credit for her accomplishments.

This is in addition to what we have previously spoken about, [i.e.,] providing her with encouragement [regarding her activities] so that she finds satisfaction and is blessed with success [in her efforts].

(Kuntres Tzaddik L’Melech, Vol. VII, p. 242)