Kenneth Cohen

Respect Your Elders

There are many interpretations as to why Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon, deserved to be put to death. The Baal Haturim lists at least five possible reasons, but is more inclined towards one of these reasons. He said that their fate was sealed because they didn’t listen to rebuking. They decided matters of Jewish Law, disrespecting their teachers, Moshe and Aharon.

They were the younger generation that thought they knew better than the older generation. This phenomenon is seen very strongly in today’s world. The wisdom and experience of the older generation, is not consulted for direction. The younger people actually believe that they know better. It is possible that this feeling of superiority comes from the familiarity of the younger crowd, with the technological world. If the older people don’t catch on as well with e-mails and texting, and are not able to remember the various passwords, and unlocking encrypted messages, they must not be very bright. How can they be expected to give sage advice when they don’t know the difference between Tik Tok and Instagram?

Throughout our history, we were taught to respect our elders, and glean from their vast knowledge and experiences. They are missing out on a real treasure, waiting to be taken. The consolation may come with the understanding that this problem began a long time ago. And an even greater consolation is that the Talmud in Masechet Sota, sees this lack of respect of the youth towards their elders, as a clear sign that Mashiach is on his way.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at