Growing Old with all the Time in the World


Jacob, the father of all twelve Jewish tribes, lived his last 17 years beginning at age 130 looking forward to a new life in a new place, having been reunited with his long-lost son, Joseph. He had no thought of being too old, or kicking back in retirement. There was much work to do to teach his grand children about G-d’s laws and prepare his progeny for the future redemption. The life of the children of Israel was then and continues to be in a continuous state of flux. Hassidism teaches us that life is a process of change and G-d is the only constant. In the midst of all of our freewheeling willy-nilly movements making sudden twists and turns moving between planned activity, being spontaneous and reacting to the unexpected, we plan, experience, reminisce and then jump off into the next plan; spiraling in circular motion. Then there is the aging process; that one group of DNA molecules in our genetic structures that sets the body off into a gradual self-destruct mode from its inception. This insidious companion buried deep in the sub consciousness of the young worms its way into one’s daily thoughts as time and gravity collect their tolls on the highway of life. The older person then becomes preoccupied with his/her mortality. Time itself seems to accelerate as days become hours and hours turn into minutes and we begin to wonder, “Where did it go? What is the point?” Suddenly it seems that all of the ambition and striving for success is futile begging the questions, “What have I accomplished? How will I be remembered?”

Moreover, under such circumstances, people begin desperately hanging on to their routines with clichés like “I’m set in my ways” or “You can’t teach new tricks to an old dog.” That may be true if you happen to be an old dog, but people have access to that same striving and ambition that prevailed in their thinking in prior decades. It is simply a matter of our connections and attachments. To explain, we are social beings; but even more so, as the Bal Shem Tov (the founder of the Hassidic Jewish movement 1698-1760) taught us, we are each an integral part of a perfectly designed and organized machine called the universe, which functions as one single unit, being the sum of its parts. This principle also applies to every living organism and inanimate object, each of which, in turn is a universe of smaller parts all functioning in perfect harmony and synchronization. This of course leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the perfect order can only come about by design and creation ex nihilo (something from nothing).

Thus, we are all interdependently connected and attached to everything and everyone just as individual cells are to each other to form the organism and the entire created universe is connected and attached to its maker utterly dependent upon and nullified to His will. Given this revelation, we can exercise our free choice and decide to attach ourselves to the Divine Will. At any age, we can maintain that same youthful strive and ambition that brought us through competitions and hard times by learning Torah, adding another good deed to our daily routines and perfecting how we perform the ones that we have already taken on. In so doing we connect and attach ourselves to the infinite instead of clamoring for things that decay and crumble with time. Then we can look back in our golden years over a long life that has passed by in a fleeting moment, G-d willing, and realize that because of unifying ourselves with the eternal Will of our Creator, like Jacob, we have all the time in the world.

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