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    Moses’ last lap – D’varim

    The final book of the Chumash sees Moshe Rabbenu summing up his career and giving the people a farewell message.

    Baruch HaShem he has been blessed with many years and he approaches the end of his book of life with a clear mind, a perceptive eye and an energetic stride.

    This echoes the verse from Psalm 71:9, Al tashlicheni l’et ziknah, “Do not cast me off in time of old age”, which can be interpreted as, don’t let me feel too tired to give old age a value and quality.

    How do we define old age? In Psalm 90 life expectancy is three score and ten or (if you’re strong) four score. These days 60, 70 or 80 are nothing special. Modern life expectancy has almost reached Moses’ 120 – hopefully “120 without falling apart”.

    The Levites retired at 50 (Num. 8:25-26) when they were no longer so strong and energetic. They were not lost to the community: the Torah says, “They shall serve with their brothers” (verse 26).

    Maybe that means they supported their fellow Levites. Or perhaps they had less onerous duties than before. They could still lock the Temple gates, sing in the choir, teach the children, and supervise loading the wagons.

    These days people are generally still strong and well long past the conventional 60 or 65 so there is no need for a set age for retirement. Older people can continue to work, even at a slower pace.

    Society should find ways of retaining the expertise and experience of its older members.

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