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Old and comes with his days

Friday, 2 November, 2018 - 9:10 am

I always loved to read biographies, to see how the deceased person had lived, and what journeys he undertook in his life. I knew that usually there were some cosmetic changes in the facts. I understood that frequently the author had to be somewhat flexible, and yet, it was still fascinating to read.

Today, in the here-and-now era, Facebook allows one to meet young people who are in the middle of their lives. You can see how they handle life, what they have done and what they are doing. There is no need even for cosmetic changes, because everything that was once considered to be a blemish, today collects Likes from everyone who identifies with that blemish – and there are a lot of Likes.

I learned to see that there are people who have dealt mainly with personal growth; they have invested years in study and have acquired titles of one sort or another; they indeed learned much and have extensive knowledge in their chosen discipline; alternatively, they have sat for years in yeshiva and have become Torah scholars.

I have also seen those who deal mainly with others – “social activists”, as they are known. Young men and women invest themselves in helping others, either materially or spiritually.

These are dynamic, live and kicking biographies – in the positive sense.

In our parasha, too we find a biography – that of Avraham Avinu – except that it consists of three words and no more, and encompasses two concepts: a. zaken (old), and b. ba bayamim (“comes with his days”).

The Rebbe in his Likutei Sichot, part 3, explains that zaken defines a human being’s personal growth, the work one does on oneself. As the Gemara says, zaken is an acronym for zeh shekana chochma – “the one who has acquired wisdom”. And ba bayamim defines his social activities, his work with and for the other. As Chazal explain, Avraham came with his days that were full of doing.

I don’t think that we can achieve the level of perfection that Avraham reached, but it is indeed possible, and even demanded of us, to learn from him the direction and the way. The direction is to try to act on both levels at the same time, each person according to his abilities and G-d-given talents. The social activist who helps others ought to find time for personal growth, and certainly for spiritual growth, in order to improve himself as well. And it is recommended that the eternal student should go out occasionally and make use of the knowledge that he has acquired in order to act and influence the world.

In case you were wondering, the Rebbe gives clear preference to a ba bayamim.

Old and comes with his days.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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