President Obama's administration was talking about possibly needing to reduce Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age to combat the deficit. What does the Jewish faith say about taking care of our society's elderly?
Providing for the elderly is a cornerstone of Judaism. The number of passages stating this abounds. From “Honor the hoary head” (Lev 19), to “Plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1), we find injunctions to honor and care for the elderly. This theme is repeated in the Talmud, for example on B’rachot 8b, and in the Midrash, Sh’mot Rabbah, 5,12.
As I understand it, the Obama administration is considering raising the retirement age. When we consider that in our generation people are healthy and productive well into their seventies, to raise the entry age for social security does not seem to me to be a violation of our principles. I read of no proposal to reduce benefits, although there is discussion of a means test. My hunch is that when Bill Gates reaches retirement age, he can live with a reduced monthly stipend from the government.
President Obama's administration is talking about reducing Social Security benefits and raising the . What does the Jewish faith say about taking care of our society's elderly?retirement age
[a] Jewish requires helping the helpess, the poor and infirmed. We are required to stand before the elderly and care for them during their dotage. They must get care because a holy soceity is a caring society
[b] Reducing benefits and raising the retirement age is not about denying benefits, but it is allocating finite resources. There are competing claims upon finite resources, and the social/political community must weigh its competing claims and allocation priorities. Need, time worked, contributions made over time, and the actual expected life span are all considerations that have to be balanced, so that “the other is judged fairly.” Fairness requires that we neither favor nor ignore those in need. Leviticus 19:15, Psalms 72:2.
The foundation of Judaism's teaching regarding care for the elderly is found in the Book of Leviticus (19:32)“You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”The Torah instructs us to“show deference” to the elderly.The medieval commentator Rashi points out that“showing deference” means one should not sit in his place, nor speak in his place, nor contradict him.The economic needs of the elderly are not addressed.
Generally, our tradition is concerned about the needy of the community, and the responsibility falls on individuals as much as it falls on the community. Judaism is concerned about creating a just society, but the mitzvot (commandments) are, for the most part, individual responsibilities.
In Deuteronomy 15:7-8 instructs us, “if, however, there is a needy person among you . . . do not harden your heart, and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather, you must open your hands and lend him sufficient for what he needs.” Our responsibility is need based not age based.
As to your concern about raising the age of retirement and reducing Social Security benefits, the questions remain what is old and what is the individual need?
Copyright 2020 all rights reserved. Jewish Values Online
N O T I C E
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
NECESSARILY REFLECT OR REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE ORTHODOX, CONSERVATIVE OR REFORM MOVEMENTS, RESPECTIVELY.