Age was once respected. Things have changed. Once you are in your mid-twenties people avoid asking you the ‘A’ question. Things were different when you were a child. If someone accused you of being 7 when you were actually 8, you would correct their mistake. After all, you have something to show for the year they omitted. You are bigger, smarter, and more like an adult..
There are all sorts of theories about why age is perceived in a progressively more negative light as you move onward and upward. One is the untenable fact that you don’t get better and better looking, or more and more energetic. Actually the word undeniable is not a good choice. I have been in denial for years, and so have some of you. You also may discover that at least technologically, you are less with it than the post millennials. We all have literally trillions of neural pathways, but gosh, the ones you developed aren’t the same ones that they did if you were born when your Date of Birth began with the number 19….
Is it always a downhill slide?
Sara lived to be 127. The Torah presents it in three segments. The person she was at 7, the person she was at 20 and the person she was at 100. Each stage is described as holy, innocent and beautiful.
Do you remember being 7?
I do. It was the age of Mrs. Neary’s second grade classroom being the place where things Happen. It was the era in which my lifelong love of reading began to become real and serious. I became the heroes of the books that I read, and their adventures filled my rich fantasy life.
The Bais HaLevi says that this stage is one in which your love of good, of justice and or making something of yourself, begins to show itself. It is potentially the beginning of your becoming a holy person. Then comes adulthood; a time in which the need to actually interact with the real world replaces the unborn aspirations of childhood. It’s a time for fulfilling ambitions so that the inner voice of the child who wants to be a hero can now be heard. This stage also comes to an end. In secular society there is no defined ambition or even purpose for life at this stage. Relaxation, dedicating yourself to pastimes that may give pleasure but rarely give more, are colors on the palette for this era. Given that life expectancy is in the 80s nowadays, this leaves quite a few years without defined structure. Kedushas Levi has a different approach. He says that this time of life is one in which the acquired wisdom of all the previous years meld into a potential self that is both reflective and wise. For the most part, this is when the Gedolei Torah reached their highest levels.
What does this have to do with you? The basic message is to see that you stay alive throughout your life. The Talmud tells you that tzadikim are called “living” even after their deaths, while evil people are called dead even while they are physically alive and breathing. The reason that it says this is that life actually involves connection to Hashem. Every stage of life opens its own possibilities.
Sara made use of each stage of her life. We are all in the middle of the drama.
Here, at Bnos Avigail, Neve, and with you, my dear dear friends who I “know” from the online community, ask the kind of questions that tell me that you are very, very aware of this.
Simcha comes from resolving doubts. When you see every day as “lihatchila”, as a purposeful gift, there are no real doubts.
Thursday the 25th of Cheshvan, is the sixth year since the Arabs attacked the Bnei Torah shul on Agassi Street in Har Nof killing 6 and seriously wounding 2. The attackers lived in Jabel Mukaber. Those of you who have been on the Tisha B’Av trip around the hills of Yerushalayim have seen it, even though at the time you didn’t know it. It is the idyllic village that you see when you look towards the Temple Mount from the extreme left side of the Haas Promenade. My son lived in an adjacent Jewish neighborhood called Nof Tzion for several years. When he looked out the window, he saw the same view that they did; he saw the holiest place of all. The two neighborhoods shared a playground (more correctly the children of Jabel Mukaber found their way to the play area that their neighbors in Nof Tzion constructed). On “our” side many people viewed this as natural, given the closeness of the two neighborhoods, and watched to see what fruits would grow from this particular tree. Others stood aside hoping that there would be no trouble and acknowledging that there were no real choices given that this is where they had chosen to live.
My granddaughter Oriya played there, and got to know the neighbors. One day, a little girl about her own age said “you know, you can take a different name. You don’t have to be Oriya. You can be Anastasia. Then we can be real friends, and when we grow up, we can go to the mall together. You can be like us”. When she came home and told her mother, my daughter in law knew that the time had come to tell Oriya the truth. She told her about what had happened in Har Nof, and what had happened years ago in Chevron not far from where her aunt currently lives. And then she told her the most important message of all.
You can choose who you want to be every day. You don’t have to be anyone you don’t want to be. You have to watch that no one hurts you, but you don’t have to be someone who likes to hurt people. You don’t have give up being Oriya and be Anastasia to deserve life, and no one has to murder 6 men who came to pray on an ordinary morning because they hate anyone who isn’t what they are. There may be difficult people in your life. You may not be able to choose who they are but you can choose who you are.
This message is one that can transform the way you look at your life regardless of what stage you are. Choose life. Choose to be the self you want to be.