In the Spring of 2013, Uri Orbach z”l named Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim Shabbat Vehadarta, The Shabbat of Honor.
The title of the Shabbat comes from Vayikra 19:32 “Before the grey haired you shall rise and honor the face of the elder and fear your God. I am the Lord.”
Uri Orbach was a national religious journalist, author and member of Knesset who as Minister of Pensioner Affairs spoke out on behalf of the elderly. He felt that Shabbat Kedoshim should be dedicated to appreciating the elderly and that during Torah reading an elderly person should be honored with the third aliya (which mentions honoring the elderly). He also suggested that synagogues and youth groups throughout Israel conduct lectures dedicated to the topic of respecting the elderly.
Unfortunately, Uri Orbach’s life was cut short when he passed away from a chronic hematologic disease at age 54.
Some of Uri Orbach’s contributions while in the Knesset included making all movies 10 shekels for senior citizens on Tuesdays, pairing up high school students with senior citizens to teach them how to use the computer and inviting senior citizens to take classes at a Jerusalem’s Himmelfarb high school. At the kickoff event of the program, Uri Orbach came to the school and paired up the teenagers with the senior citizens for a chavruta Torah learning program.
Those outside of Israel can commemorate Shabbat Vehadarta next Shabbat when Parshat Kedoshim is read in chutz laaretz (the Diaspora).
In the poetry books that he wrote for children, Uri Orbach used humor to teach the children good values.
One poem that stands out in my mind is a poem about a boy who says that he doesn’t only study mishna in order to earn candy, he doesn’t only make room for an elderly man with a cane because the rabbi is watching…There are things that he does on his own because he is a nice boy. The poem is accompanied by a picture of a boy helping an elderly man carry his bags.
We must do what we can to continue Uri Orbach’s legacy of treating the elderly with respect, not just this Shabbat but every day.
If you would like to sponsor a class for the elderly in Jerusalem in honor of Shabbat Vehadarta go to this link.