Sometimes I wonder when I’ll be old…
When I was in my teens and twenties, I used to think that 40 was old. But now that I’m in my my forties, I don’t feel that much different. I’m a little more gray, a little more wrinkled, maybe a little more settled, but I can’t say that I feel old.
So, maybe 80 is old. But it says,
בן שמונים לגבורה
Eighty years old for strength
Pirkei Avos 5:22
יְמֵי–שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה
וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה
The days of our years in them are seventy years,
and if with strength, eighty years
Our Sages tell us that “Days” means days of real living, days of spiritual growth. So, I don’t have to be old then, either.
Maybe 90 is old… But our Sages say the 90s are a time for sicha- this means speaking to HaShem through heart-felt tefilla.
So, maybe when I’ll be 100, I’ll be old…
Personal Growth Happens to Those Who Are Young at Heart
What does it mean to be a young versus to grow old in a spiritual sense?
The word for “youth” נַעַר is related to the word נָעַר, which means to shake or stir. Youth is synonymous with movement, a constant kinetic energy.
Yet, the word for “old” is שיבה which is related to the word לשׁבּ, meaning to sit or settle down. It is the opposite of movement.
To be alive as a Jew means that there is spiritual movement and growth- even if that movement is microscopic, even if a person moves up one day and falls back down the next day.
Once the movement stops, so does life.
It is possible for a person to be physically old, yet spiritually young. But the flip side can occur, too. A person can be physically alive- even young- but spiritually old and dead if he or she is not growing and changing.
That means, someone can be doing many mitzvos- even learning Torah- but if these actions are being done by rote, if the person is the same before and after, then even if the act is counted as a merit, there is nevertheless, no life in them and no real life for the person doing them.
Sefiras HaOmer is a time of spiritual growth… On Pesach we plant the seeds of yearning and inner strength, wanting to come closer to our true selves and to HaShem. During Sefiras HaOmer, we keep stirring the pot. Each and every day represents another potential aspect of growth. If we tap into the energy of Sefiras HaOmer, then it becomes a time when we can more easily examine the places where we are too indifferent, too scared, or too stubborn to challenge the status quo- the places where there is no internal movement- and we can make a change for the better…
It’s from these very places that the true journey to personal growth and Kabbalas HaTorah begins- one small step and one day at a time.