Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Vayishlach

Aging Gracefully

by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch

"And it came to pass after these matters that [the messenger] said to Yosef (Joseph), 'Behold, your father is ill.'...(Beraishis/Genesis 48:1) This is the first time in the history of the world that someone became sick.

Yalkut Shimoni (1)(Chayai Sarah 105) narrates that Avraham requested from G-d the phenomenon of visible aging, for he feared that when father and son entered a room people would not know whom to give honor first, so G-d granted him his wish, with him as the first recipient. Yitzchak (Isaac) requested suffering before death, for he feared the result of the process of Divine judgment if one never had the warning to do teshuva (regret one's misdeeds and resolve to return to G-d's path), so G-d granted him his wish, with him as the first recipient. Yaakov (Jacob) requested illness, for he feared the consequences of not having a few days to resolve outstanding issues between one's children. G-d granted him his wish, with him as the first recipient.

Michtav Me'Eliyahu (2) explains that each of our saintly forefathers made requests consistent with his most pronounced character trait. Avraham, known for his acts of chesed (loving kindness), appreciated the need for giving genuine honor to his fellow human. G-d concurred to the great impediment this indistinguishability placed on one's Divine service through chesed. Yitzchak's focus was on justice, and he recognized the great tragedy in the afterlife that awaited one who did not do teshuva. Therefore, he beseeched a mechanism in this life that would awaken the consciousness to this inevitability so that the requisite correction could be made. Yaakov's pursuit was perfection and completion, seeking resolution between opposing forces. Prior to death, a simple declaration of one's will was insufficient; efforts needed to be made to ensure that the children accepted the determination. He understood that there would continue to be jealousy unless everyone genuinely felt his interests had been served, that there could be no peace (shalom) between parties without feeling a sense of wholeness (shleimus). This could not be accomplished with the suddenness that accompanied natural death at that time. G-d's accommodation was extended illness.

Rabbi Akiva taught us (Tractate Berachos 60b) that one should regularly remind himself that all that G-d does is for the good. There are tragedies that challenge our faith in this maxim, such as the difficulties that comes with aging. But our Sages remind us often that trials are given to us as growth opportunities (see Kol HaKollel Parshas Lech Lecha 5764), and G-d, in his infinite kindness and love for us, granted our forefathers' requests for the growth opportunities of aging. Our challenge is to maximize our utilization of them.

Have a Good Shabbos!

(1) most comprehensive Midrashic anthology, covering the entirety of the Tanach (Bible); attributed to Rabbi Shimon HaDarshan of Frankfurt of the thirteenth century

(2) collected writings and discourses of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (1891-1954) of London and B'nai Brak, one of the outstanding personalities and thinkers of the Mussar movement


Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Torah.org


 


ARTICLES ON VAYIGASH AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

The Final Approach
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762

Love Conquers All
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

Ruble Trouble
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

> The Meaning of Miracles
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Paint the World with Light
Rabbi Label Lam - 5775

What Are You Waiting For?
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5766

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Just Five More Minutes of Sleep!
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

The Root of the Problem
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

It's All in the Delivery
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Looking for a Chavrusah?

They Weren't Just Learning Eglah Arufah By Coincidence
- 5770

From the Mouth of a "Turned Off" Student
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

Chanukah: A Postscript
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

ArtScroll

Destiny Today
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5758

Interpreting Dreams
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

Build with Your Dreams
Shlomo Katz - 5772

Shabbat Shalom
Shlomo Katz - 5773



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information