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November 04, 1988 - Image 35

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I TORAH PORTION I

Saturday, November 12, 1988, 8:30 P.M.

Let The People Rejoice
In Their Many Years

RABBI IRWIN GRONER

Special to The Jewish News

And Abraham was old, ad-
vanced in age; and the Lord
blessed Abraham — bakol —
with everything.

Our sages sought to unders-
tand what the Torah intend-
ed to impart with the word
"everything." They said
Abraham demanded from
God something that had
never been bestowed upon
man.
Although Abraham had
everything — material posses-
sions, children, power and

Shabbat Chayei
Sarah:
Genesis 23:1-25:18,
I Kings 1:1-31

success — he demanded old
age. God said to him: "You
asked for something very
good and precious. You will
have old age."
This passage of the midrash
may seem bizarre to the
modern mind because one of
the most universal fears and
concerns of our time is the
fear of growing old. In every
generation, men and women
have sought fantastic ways to
prevent the onrush of advan-
cing years.
Our era is distinguished by
its effort to stem the tide of
time. Whole industries are set
aside for this enterprise, pro-
vidng cosmetics to conceal
wrinkles, chemicals to dye
the hair, garments to conceal
or disclose those silhouettes
appropriate to youthful,
rather than mature, persons.
Why this desperate effort to
hide one's age? First, age is
erroneously believed to be a
sign of uselessness and inef-
fectiveness. In some in-
dustries, men and women are
displaced for the universal
crime of getting older. Second,
youth is considered more
desirable because it is
associated with strength,
vitality and excitement. Since
youth is deemed the time of
vigor, energy and joy, the
onset of advancing age is
viewed with trepidation and
distress.

But Abraham demanded
age, and God blessed him by
granting it to him. The
midrash suggests that
Abraham perceived a pro-

Irwin Groner is rabbi of
Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

found human truth: Every
age has its unique beauty, its
particular zest, its charac-
tristic blessing. Every season
has its place in nature; every
period in life has its special
significance.
What do you consider the
most beautiful of all the
seasons? The time of spring
with its budding trees and
leaves and the sense of
nature's renewal? What
would it be like to have a year
without the twilight of an
autumn day, when the setting
sun fills the colored leaves
with a beauty that spring can
never know? What about the
soft snowflakes of winter,
which no season can
duplicate? Who can say that
youth is better than age? Just
as life is incomplete without
each season, so does each age
bring a different dimension of
experience.
For this reason, the sages
list the qualities of each age:
At the age of 30, a person
has reached his full physical
power; at 40, one attains
understanding; at 50, the
time for counsel; 60, for
mature age; 80, a time of
great spiritual strength.
When John Dewey, the
philosopher, was 90, a young
teacher said to him: "Pro-
fessor, I hope I'll be present at
your hundredth birthday."
"Why not?" Dewey respond-
ed. "You look healthy enough
to last until then."
Dewey had a sense of humor
about his age. I have found
that people of advanced years
have a certain mellow
wisdom. They have dealt with
sorrow and have overcome it.
They have dealt with passion
and have disciplined it. They
have found peace and
meaning.
For Abraham, old age was
not a punishment, but a
reward. It can be a reward for
those who retain the interest
and alertness of victorious liv-
ing. It is a reward for those
who continue to fill their days
with mental and spiritual
adventure. In the words of
Scripture: "If a man lives
many years, let him rejoice in
them all."

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THE. DETROIT JEWISH, NEWS 35

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