NEVER TOO OLD | Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

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By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

“Care chiefs ask the latest technology to rescue the lonely.” So exclaimed a recent headline in a major newspaper. The article goes on to explain that, “For lonely older people, having someone to talk to and help around the house can be a lifeline. Even if that someone is a computer.”

So is this a sign of the future, older citizens sitting at home talking to a listening box that has been programmed to answer the old dearies? Councils that are struggling with cuts see these machines that cost £89 as a lifeline. They will act a little like baby monitors, only with the ability to make orders at food centres, and call for help. They even are able to make jokes and share some light banter. Sounds brilliant, a perfect answer to all those lonely souls left living alone with no one in their lives for company.

However, many blame such use of technology for exacerbating the atomisation of society. Personal contact with other human beings is deemed vital for each of us, and even more so for the elderly. Obviously these listening and talking devices are certainly worthwhile, they can enable those who are ill or fragile to have some input to the outside world. My only fear is that this will lead to even more disenfranchisement.

People who are blessed with years have unique challenges, one of the hardest is staying vibrant. In the year I was born the average life expectancy of a male was 63.6 years, now Boruch Hashem we are up to 81.4 and climbing. Truth be said, with today’s nutritional knowledge and medical advances, we are blessed with a substantial number of Yidden in their high 90s. The question we must ask is what are we doing with these extra years Hashem has granted us with? I am part of this “extra years” category, and I constantly challenge myself with this question.

In parshas Chayei Sarah we learn: “Now Abraham was old, and Hashem had blessed Abraham with everything.” The Tiferes Shmuel of Alexander Zt”l touches upon a medrash that declares “that there is ageing with no days, and then there are days with no ageing.” What does this imply? That there are days that are lived with no Torah, no chesed, days that are stale and lost in a vapour of emptiness. Such days, are of no true blessing. Then of course there can be days that are filled with the light of newness, freshness of Torah and gemilas Chesed… These are wondrous days, leaving one fresh and young despite what the calendar may say.  This was the blessing that Avrohom Ovinu had, his days were a melding of longevity and acts of living Yiddishkiet.

We are blessed with added days, and our challenge is to fill them with freshness in Torah and Avodah. It’s not only about shuffling along to a shiur and sleeping thru it, no, it’s about becoming totally enthralled in new learning. Davening should ring with vitality which will bring a special spring to one’s step. Yes, the body does get weak, we may not be able to get up without a krechtz, no matter, we are here and being called upon to bring a tikun to every single day we are blessed with.

The Tiferes Shmuel adds a brilliant chidush to this:

There is a disagreement as to when Avrohom became aware of the totality of Hashem and His baalus over the world. One Sage says he was all of three years old, another sage says he was forty eight. Says the Rebbe Zt”l actually both are correct. It is possible that Avrohom was forty eight years old but his fresh outlook and hischadshis was always like a youngster of three that learns everything with an open freshness. Torah and chesed was always fresh to him, not matter the biological age.

So I don’t know about that listening device that may or may not sit in my living room awaiting my instructions or offering a stale joke. What I do know, and want to share with all those stepping ever closer to these extra gebentched years is that we should use them with lebedikiet! It will not always be easy, we will be prone to ill health and difficulties. The mist of weakness and pain will sometimes be our companion. However, even in such darkness we can be a vehicle for kiddush Hashem, and this in itself is the Rotzon Hashem.

In these days of rapid cultural uproar, we can offer our young an example of being young despite the years, and share our love for what we have witnessed with our future generations.