“As Torah scholars increase in age, so do they increase in wisdom, but as the ignorant increase in age, so do they increase in foolishness.” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabath, p. 152A)
Many have said that the first thing a person loses in old age is their mind. However, our tradition teaches that one who continually invests one’s mind with Torah wisdom only sharpens the mind thereby, even into old age. Anyone can experience the truth of this teaching firsthand by visiting living Torah sages, and seeing how, despite their old age, their sharpness of mind, erudition and refinement of character do not fail to impact whomever comes in contact with them. (Watch videos of people meeting Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, for example, a sage one hundred years in age, to experience this for yourself. I myself have met with such sages and each time left those meetings a different person.) We learn this concept from a verse in this week’s Torah reading: “And Avraham (Abraham) was old, advanced in age” (Genesis 24:1). The Hebrew, “ba bayamim,” literally means, “advancing in days,” but loosely translates as “advanced in age” to fit the English idiom. However, the Hebrew means more than a mere indication of Avraham’s advancement in age; after all, the verse already told us that “Avraham was old.” Rather, “advancing in days” means that as Avraham grew older each day, he also made certain to actively advance himself on a personal level, increasing his wisdom through study and meditation, as well as his refinement of character through upright acts. Those who do not do as Avraham do not simply neglect their growth, but allow the deterioration natural for a body and mind left to atrophy. Let us learn from our forefather Avraham, increase our wisdom and performance of upright acts, and “advance” in all our days!
Based on Shla”h, Parshas Chayey Sarah
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