The Abrahams of history have forever shared one common denominator: they never stopped growing and impacting the world with good deeds and positive actions. No matter the challenge. No matter the circumstance. No matter the age. And this is what made them robustly alive, and truly great.Rabbi Allouche
“What will you do now?”
I recall asking my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, this question, some ten years ago. He had just turned 73 years old, and he had recently completed his monumental translation and commentary of the entire Talmud – a feat that no human being had achieved ever since Rashi, the medieval commentator of the Torah.
His answer taught me volumes about life and living: “I have plans for the next 170 years of many, many things I want to achieve. Now… if “the Boss”, G-d, decides to take me elsewhere, I will oblige, but as long as I am here I have lots of things to do.” As we now know, during the next ten years, until his passing just over a year ago, he continued to teach, to inspire, and to fill our libraries with his books and commentaries on the entire canon of the Jewish library – the Bible, the Mishna, the Talmud, the Tanya, and Maimonides.
By the time Abraham was 75 years old, he too could have retired with much satisfaction. His resume, by then, was also impressive. He was a monotheist who stood up for his beliefs. He had transformed countless lives and had accumulated a massive following of fans and students.
But then G-d appears to him and asks him to leave everything behind, and “go to a place that I will show you.” No, not to Hawaii, or to his dream retirement home. But to a mysterious place, where he will have to continue to work tirelessly. What would you have done?
Many of us would have replied with a resounding “no.” But Abraham, like Rabbi Adin, was a great man, and he knew that as long as he was alive, he had to fulfill his purpose, and make a positive difference in our broken world.
So at the ripe age of 75, he jumped on his next task ahead. He took his revolution to a whole new level. He became the “father of many nations,” and he transformed the landscape of history.
Many of history’s giants have followed this model too. Some examples include Moses who was 80 years old when he became our nation’s leader. Rabbi Akiva was 64 when he was finally recognized as the most eminent scholar and leader of his time. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe was 49 years old when he assumed the mantle of leadership of the Chabad movement and of the Jewish people in 1951.
Indeed, the Abrahams of history have forever shared one common denominator: they never stopped growing and impacting the world with good deeds and positive actions. No matter the challenge. No matter the circumstance. No matter the age. And this is what made them robustly alive, and truly great.
The lesson is clear: regardless of our age, we too ought to prepare “for the next 170 years.” Let us set goals, especially in our spiritual journeys, for the next year.
Which books will we study? Which mitzvahs will we fulfill? Which Jewish values will we introduce to our families? Which act of goodness and kindness will we perform today, and tomorrow?