Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Tammuz 5759 - June 30 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Sticking with the Truth in our Lives

America is aging, and product design and marketing are tracking this change. The way it is being handled is a classic example of the way in which modern values -- especially those that may be only subtly evident and implied - - can clash deeply with the Torah person's approach to the world.

Products are being designed to accommodate the huge market of people whose eyesight is weakening, whose strength is waning and who are not quite as supple as they once were. These are natural, normal processes of aging.

A major soft drink company has designed a new shape for the plastic bottles in which it sells its drinks. It is easier to carry since it requires less hand strength to hold than the older design.

Automobile designers are coming out with dials that are larger, controls that are easier to hold and manipulate, special panels to make loading easier and even power seats that swivel to make getting in and out of the vehicle easier. Thoughtful designers are even putting heating elements in the seats.

Plumbing fixtures are getting new looks. Kitchen utensils are given larger and thicker handles, making them easier to hold and use by more people. Recreational vehicles are designed to be more stable and slower, and even have heated hand grips. Tennis rackets with extra-wide heads and golf clubs with extra-large heads are now extremely popular.

This new approach has a name: universal design, suggesting that the only motive is to have broad appeal. The marketing experts say that it will not do to say that these changes were made to accommodate the limitations of aging customers.

"We don't mention the age word," said an associate product manager for bathing products. Referring to shower stalls with seats she says, "I tell the sales force they're smart showers."

"It's a mistake to tell a client this is a product to accommodate the frailties of age," said a marketing consultant referring to recreational vehicles that are larger and have special steps to make them easier to get onto. "It's better to say that it makes the adventure more accessible."

That is the dirty secret. The millions of people who are aging and have money to spend do not want to admit their infirmities. They refuse to acknowledge that they are getting older. They want to stay young forever.

How easy it is to simply read about these developments and chuckle quietly, without paying any attention to the wholesale acceptance and selling of such charming (and lucrative) lies. How tragic it could be to absorb and accept this approach in one's daily life.

It does not say explicitly in the Torah that one must or should admit to age or physical limitations. On the other hand an approach that propagates a refusal to confront reality as it is and prefers a lie, no matter how benign and charming it seems, is deeply inimical to the Torah approach to the world.

What a contrast to the teachings of Kelm about strict emes! Can anything be farther from the Torah behavior of the Mashgiach, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt"l, who refrained from crying even during tefilla in his old age since he could not be certain that his tears came from genuine kavono and were not just the tears of old age?

The seal of HaKodosh Boruch Hu is emes, and He will be hard to find if one is not completely truthful in life. We can buy the new products, but we should not buy the values that produced them.

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