Alexander Seinfeld

Pop’s Senior Moment?

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In honor of my grandparents’ yahrzeits last week (and senior citizenship being in the news this week), here is a favorite story about each of my paternal grandparents that we can all learn from.

First, grandma. We called her Gigi. She had this small, well-appointed writing desk that she used for letter-writing and newspaper clipping.

The letters and clippings went hand-in-hand.

You see, there were three reasons Gigi would write a letter:

– To say Thank You
– To say Happy Birthday
– To share a newspaper clipping of interest.

She was so meticulous about the first two that she always had a checklist of people she needed to write to or send birthday greetings to.

But the third item – sending newspaper clippings – was just her way of saying, “Thinking of you!”

It’s such a kind and loving action that takes a bit of time, but not too much, and so easy to emulate now that our news is digitized.

Perhaps that’s the ultimate use of the Share button – not to spam your network or friends or family with the clipping, rather to share it with one person only, just to say, “Thinking of you!”

The anecdote about my grandfather, whom we called Pop, occurred about a month before I began college.

They came by for a random Sunday visit as they often did, and Pop cornered me to give me some grandfatherly wisdom, as he often did.

“I have one word of advice for you before you go to college.”

“One word?”

“One word.”

(I felt like my life had become a movie. This was momentous, a scene that I’d be able to tell my own children about!)

“Don’t take courses in college.”


(Umm… are we having a senior moment Pop, or is there going to be a punchline?)

He looks me in the eye with a smile: “Take teachers. With an interesting subject but a lousy teacher, you won’t learn anything. But even with a boring subject but an excellent teacher, you’ll learn everything.”

He was, of course, 100 percent right. Whenever I followed his advice, I learned everything, and when I didn’t (or couldn’t), I learned very little.

In my experience, this wisdom applies to any subject, including Torah.

Pop was born 113 years ago, the son of immigrants from Galicia. Many life experiences fueled a natural wisdom that the Torah says everyone achieves by age 70. But some seem more able to articulate it than others.

Question: When a child goes off to college, they are for sure going to encounter articulate, persuasive teachers whose moral alignment is let’s say “different” from the parents. Why are some young people more impressionable and vulnerable to such influence than others?

PS – Want to know how you can improve your mind and memory and slow or even stop cognitive decline? Try Dr. John Ratey’s book.

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The mission of Jewish Spiritual Literacy, Inc. ( is to foster a paradigm shift in spiritual education to enable every human being to access and enjoy the incredible database of 3,000 years of Jewish wisdom.

About the Author
Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld PhD is the Executive Director of Jewish Spiritual Literacy, Inc (, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing Jewish education at all levels. He is the author of Body & Soul: The Torah Path to Health, Fitness and a Holy LIfe; The Art of Amazement (available in Hebrew as Omanut Ha’Hitpa’alut); and the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar iPhone app. His weekly Torah Health podcast may be heard on
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