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Posted on November 9, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

Avraham was old, well on in years. Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything.[1]

Hashem had bestowed all the berachah upon him long before. He led a blessed life for many, many years. Why stress this blessing here, only in his old age?

An answer may be that most of what we regard as the blessings of life cease to have any meaning during old age. People work for decades to accumulate wealth, or to attain honor and glory. Yet, when they are finally ready to enjoy them, those accomplishments no longer have any meaning to them. They lose interest in many of the things that brought them joy when they were younger, or lose the physical strength and ability to participate in them. Fortune and honor no longer bring them the same pleasure that they did in earlier decades.

People who love doing for others, however, are clearly different. Their joy comes from being able to help others – to provide them with what they are lacking, and to put a smile on their faces. People who orient themselves around chesed find money and power to be blessed because they continue to use them to enrich the lives of others.

The “golden years” are very different for them. They continue to find delight in helping others regardless of their age. While others their age can only look back, they are still looking forward – and enjoying every day along the way. This is what our pasuk means: Even when Avraham the consummate baal chesed grew old, the blessings he received when younger remained in full force.

Shlomo HaMelech said, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days do not yet come – before the years arrive about which you say, ‘I have no desire for them.’”[2] We get the message, but the construction seems awkward. Shouldn’t he have said “before the evil days do come?” The point Shlomo makes is that the young should be focused on their Creator, and use the blessings of youth to multiply good. That way, their later lives will be different from those of others their age. When they get to the years that objectively are “evil” as their strengths wane, they will not be experience them as such. They will look back at their earlier years with satisfaction, rather than regret. So long as they have any strength, they will be able to continue the activities that gave them pleasure when younger. About them, one can say that “the evil days do not yet come,” because to them, the full evil of them never arrives.

A medrash[3] on our pasuk links “well on in years” to the “the evil days do not yet come” of Koheles. We now can understand why. It tells us that old age as it is usually experienced didn’t happen for Avraham. Because of his life-long devotion to helping others, he never felt the usual evil of those final years. They remained a blessing for him, rich in memory, and rich in continued happiness.

  1. Bereishis 24:1
  2. Koheles 12:1
  3. Bereishis Rabbah 59:9