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    We that are left grow old – Lech L’cha

    Sarah laughing that she will give birth, by James Tissot

    Abraham and Sarah were no youngsters when their son was born. Far from it. They were so advanced in years that Sarah laughed when she heard she would have a child.

    Yet despite their age, Abraham and Sarah now began the most productive period of their life, creating a future for their faith, tradition and family.

    In a later generation Moses began his great period of leadership at an age when conventional wisdom would have thought him too old.

    Aaron his brother was even older, and his sons Nadav and Avihu had to be punished by God when, according to one rabbinic version, they said of their father and uncle, “When will these old men die so that we can take charge?”.

    Had Abraham, Sarah, Moses and Aaron lived today there would have been modern Nadavs and Avihus desperately anxious to push them aside and consign them to the scrap heap of history.

    It sounds like the Greek custom of leaving older people on the hilltops to die. Fortunately, discrimination on the grounds of age is now increasingly unlawful, and those who are capable of a continuing contribution to society are not being lost from the workforce.

    The fact that an arbitrary age like 60 or 65 does not automatically make a person a has-been is well illustrated by Jewish history; had there been a retirement age for leadership in Judaism there would have been no Ten Commandments, no Torah, no Jewish tradition, no Judaism.

    But no-one can keep going for ever, at least at the same punishing pace. Which is why you have to prepare yourself psychologically as well as economically for the time when you decide to vary your pace. It is good to move into the new mode in advance.

    A good analogy is Jewish experience when the Temple was destroyed. Despite the tragedy Judaism kept going, because the synagogue was waiting in the wings, ready to take over as the spiritual focus of Jewish life.

    A person should always have something waiting in the wings – a new career, new commitments, a new busyness… and a new attitude that leaves no room for depression or self-doubt.

    Everyone should say in the morning, “I can choose to be unhappy – or happy. My choice is to be happy!”

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