All peoples of the world started out tribal and since that all was a really long time ago (for most peoples anyway) we can probably ascertain that there were long visits by the campfires and stories were told. Among the stories we'd probably find the wisdom of the elders of the clans or tribes transmitted down through the generations.
Wisdom has been a very important virtue to me for a very long time, even in my teenage years. Of course I had the pull every kid had to be like my peers and do the things they were doing. But the words of the Bible pulled me, especially Song of Songs and Proverbs. I was fascinated by the life and accomplishments of King Solomon. Yet I was like every other kid, just a bit depressed, somewhat rebellious ad always searching. And it's within the traditions of Judaism as well as my Native American heritage that compel me to learn more about the elders of both traditions and their thoughts on life and other matters.
My fiance is older than me (so he's an elder), he has a sentence that imparts much wisdom : "the truth requires few words." Can I get an amen with this? There is still a strong place of respect for the Elders in Native American traditions and it bears out in the family day to day interactions.
Judaism has that love and respect for the elders too and is demonstrated through our prayers for example. In the Amidah on Shabbat we recite (from the Conservative prayerbook):
"Praised are You Adonai, our God and God of our ancestors, God of Abaham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, great, mighty, awesome, exalted God who bestows lovingkindness. Creator of all, You remember the pious deeds of our ancestors..."
Judaism is a belief system replete with the harrowing tales of Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. Synagogues ring with the poetry and scriptures of those who went before us. And while times certainly change, there are some universal truths that speak to us through the ages. Which brings me back to the wisdom my fiance is imparting to me, a strong Native American perspective:
"Do no harm".
Like I said, he's a man of few words but don't those three simple words speak loud to you as you read this? Think about that throughout the day. I have and still tend to - how many different ways do we harm ourselves, other people and Mother Earth through our words as they become action? Rather profound if you ask me!
So the line about "respect your elders" is more than just a line people use to jokingly berate the young, it's steeped in truth. Listen to the wisdom of your elders, take notice of how it might save you some trouble down the road of your life!