News

90http://www.theshlenkerschool.org/blog/2018/11/linking-the-generations-friday-november-2-201
Linking the Generations - Friday, November 2 - 2018
11/02/2018 12:03 PM Posted by: David Cohen Poster Avatar
Chayei Sarah (The Life of Sarah)
Genesis 23:1−25:18
Sarah lived to be 127 years old--such was the span of Sarah's life.
 
"Adding Life to Years"
A D'var Torah by Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D.

What is it that most people want to become but nobody wants to be? This paradox is no riddle, it is simply a reality of life. In our youth-oriented culture, almost everyone wants to reach old age but no one wants to be old. Consider the elixirs, tinctures, potions, stairmasters, elyptical trainers, and so many other nostrums and contraptions employed to aid in the search for the fountain of youth whereby we hope to forestall and even halt the inexorable march of time.

The tension between growing old and wanting to stay young takes on greater urgency because the aging population today is quite different from that of any other period in history, evidenced by the sheer number of people living beyond retirement age. The 65-74-age category is approximaely eight times larger than it was in 1900; the number of 75-84 year olds is 17 times larger; and the 85-and-up population is nearly 40 times larger. Future projections indicate that by the year 2030, there will be more than 70 million people over the age of 65, and the population aged 85 and over, the group most likely to need health- and long-term care services, also will increase dramatically.

Today, lives no longer conform to past expectations and patterns. Marriage, schooling, career, child bearing, and child rearing are more fluid than ever before. Many do not look or act their chronological age, making necessary new benchmarks for the retired set, a mixture of young-old, old-old, sick-old, well-old, well-off-old, and so forth.

Chayei Sarah was written at a time when growing old was the exception rather than the rule. It is a narrative that bids a reader to pause and consider the prospect of aging and the personal hope that growing old will be gentle and graceful rather than severe and graceless. The text reminds the reader that Sarah was 127 when she died (Genesis 23:1) while Abraham lived to be 175 (Genesis 25:7). Both Sarah and Abraham accomplished their most significant achievements in the latter part of their lives, well past the age that would be considered feasible today. Abraham set out on his fateful journey at God’s command from Haran (in northwest Mesopotamia — modern-day Iraq) to "the land that I will show you” at age 75 (Genesis 12:1, 4). When Abraham reached age 90, God revealed Himself to Abraham and promised to make his descendents exceedingly numerous (Genesis 17:4-6). At age 99, Abraham was commanded to circumcise himself (Genesis 17:24). Although, Sarah, at age 90, and Abraham, at age 100, were well past normal child-bearing years, nevertheless, Isaac was born (Genesis 21:2-3). Thus, for Sarah and Abraham, age provided no barrier to accomplishment. They launched themselves onto new pathways at a time when they might have been expected to retire to rocking chairs.

Those who think that growing old is just mind over matter fail to recognize that genes, nutrition, proper care, exercise, and just plain luck cannot be disregarded. Nevertheless, an individual’s attitude toward aging is important. Contrast the comment of one older woman, "I tried being old a couple of years ago and I hated it, so I am never going to do that again,” with that of the 91 year old standing by a grave at the end of a interment service who said to me, "You know, rabbi, it hardly pays for me to go home.”

Attitude is, indeed, important. Some years ago, I visited a woman who was celebrating her 99th birthday. As I left, I cheerfully said, "I hope I will be able to come back next year to celebrate your 100th birthday with you.” "Why shouldn’t you?” she asked. "You look perfectly healthy to me.”

Until this modern age, those who managed to grow old were anomalous; few people lived long enough to prevent leisure time, longed for when young, from becoming a burden when aged.

The Book of Proverbs finds increasing currency in an age when the number of septuagenarians, octogenarians, nonagenarians, centenarians, and even a sprinkling of supercentenarians (those 110 years old or more) are rapidly increasing: "The gray hair is a crown of glory” (Proverbs 16:31). By extension, Rabbinic tradition teaches: "ben arba-im labinah, ben chamishim l‘eitzah ... ben sh’monim lig’vurah — at forty one is fit for discernment; at fifty for counsel … at eighty for strength” (Pirkei Avot 5.21). These are not isolated statements about growing old; comparable maxims fill the pages of traditional texts, aphorisms that can be utilized in formulating attitudes about growing old gracefully. The example of Sarah and Abraham’s longevity, and the accomplishments realized during their advanced years provide new ways of thinking about adding meaningful life to extended years, fulfilling the Psalmist’s prayer: "Teach us to count our days rightly, that we may obtain a wise heart” (Psalms 90:12).
 
Categorized under:  Torah
Blog Search

Categories

1Elementary Education
Elementary Education (43)
2Preschool
Preschool (36)
3Torah
Torah (31)

Archives

201811November1
November 2018 (1)
201810October4
October 2018 (4)
201809September4
September 2018 (4)
201808August2
August 2018 (2)
201805May4
May 2018 (4)
201804April4
April 2018 (4)
201803March4
March 2018 (4)
201802February4
February 2018 (4)
201801January3
January 2018 (3)
201712December3
December 2017 (3)
201704April1
April 2017 (1)
201703March1
March 2017 (1)
201702February2
February 2017 (2)
201701January1
January 2017 (1)
201604April1
April 2016 (1)
201505May1
May 2015 (1)
201503March1
March 2015 (1)
201502February1
February 2015 (1)
201501January1
January 2015 (1)
201412December2
December 2014 (2)
201409September1
September 2014 (1)
201408August1
August 2014 (1)
201405May2
May 2014 (2)
201312December1
December 2013 (1)
201310October3
October 2013 (3)
201308August1
August 2013 (1)
201305May3
May 2013 (3)
201304April4
April 2013 (4)
201303March10
March 2013 (10)
201212December1
December 2012 (1)
201210October1
October 2012 (1)
201209September2
September 2012 (2)
201109September1
September 2011 (1)
201103March1
March 2011 (1)
201101January1
January 2011 (1)
201012December1
December 2010 (1)
201011November1
November 2010 (1)
201010October2
October 2010 (2)
201009September2
September 2010 (2)
201008August2
August 2010 (2)
201007July1
July 2010 (1)