In elementary school whenever the principal walked into our classroom we had to stand up and greet him. I always thought it was strange that the principal was the one person we had to do this for but perhaps the reason comes from this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim. In Leviticus 19:32, we read, “You shall rise before the aged and show honor to the elder; you shall fear your God: I am Adonai.” Sometimes the Hebrew word for aged, seiva, is translated as "white haired". My principal had white hair so now I understand why we always stood.
We might not literally stand every time an elder walks into our room, but this part of the holiness code reminds us to respect those who have more lived experience than we do. We “stand up” for the elders when we listen to their stories, when they share their journeys, and when we provide friendship and connection. Standing up does not always mean we will always agree with everything that our elders say or do. Respecting elders means we should be able to acknowledge our differences in a kind and courteous way too.
In the same way, we rise each time we take the Torah from the Ark. We stand in the presence of the Torah to show honor to our sacred text, linking us to generations past, and learning from the teachings and values that have been passed down. We may not agree with every commandment found in the Torah, some of the commandments we may disagree with may even be found in this week’s parsha, but by rising we show reverence to our history and our ancient tradition. We also respect Torah when we feel comfortable acknowledging when we are challenged and when we differ with our ancient text.
When we rise, support, and connect with our elders we show esteem to them and respect their own personal Torah they have lived. May that be one of our intentions this Shabbat.