Lengthening our days

Through the Lens of Torah
Ki Teitzeh  Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19

Moshe Kempinski

Judaism Rose Wolf Sefer Torah Dedication
Rose Wolf Sefer Torah Dedication
צילום: PR

In this week's Torah portion we read the following;

"If a bird's nest chances before you on the road, on any tree, or on the ground, and [it contains] fledglings or eggs, if the mother is sitting upon the fledglings or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother upon the young. You shall send away the mother, and [then] you may take the young for yourself, in order that it should be good for you, and you should lengthen your days."(Deuteronomy 22:6-7)

We see that concept of "lengthening our days "  again regarding the commandment of honoring one's parents

"Honor your father and your mother as Hashem your G-d commanded you, in order that your days be lengthened, and that it may go well with you on the land that Hashem, your G-d, is giving you."(Deuteronomy 5:16)

We see it again with the commandment regarding the laws of honest business activity:

“You shall have a full and honest weight, [and] a full and honest ephah measure, in order that your days will be lengthened on the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you"(Deuteronomy 25:15).

We are struck with an important question..

Our experiences in life has taught us that the rewards for the fulfilment of G-d's will is not always readily apparent in this world, so how can such a promise be made?

The Talmud describes a tragic situation wherein a father instructs his son to ascend a tower to bring him some chicks.  The son climbed up, sent away the mother and took the chicks.  On his way down he fell and died.  ( Chullin; 142). The Talmud raises the painful and obvious question regarding a young man dying after fulfilling two commandments, both of which  include the concept of " in order that your days be lengthened, ".

The Talmud then suggests the possibility that rewards for spiritually motivated actions are not readily perceived in our natural world.

Yet we are still left with a quandary regarding the words "in order that your days be lengthened". They seem to point to an earthly experience.

What then can we understand about the concept of the "lengthening of Days" It is a concept repeated throughout the Torah text.

King Solomon teaches about the process of "Arichut Yamim- the lengthening of our days". He writes in the book of Proverbs the following

"My son, forget not My instruction, and may your heart keep My commandments; for they shall add length of days and years of life and peace to you."(Proverbs 3:1-2)

King Solomon is taught this understanding by Hashem Himself.

“And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will lengthen your days."(I Kings 3:14)

In general in many places in the Torah we are told that  the keeping of the mitzvot ( G-d's commandments) and being obedient to His will brings  about Arichut Yamim-the lengthening of days in our lives. (Deuteronomy 4:40, 5:30, 6:2,11:09, 17:20,and 32:47)

Perhaps focusing on Abraham will give us the insight we seek.

"Now, Abraham was old (Zaken) and advanced in days (Bah BeYamim"( Genesis 24:1).In truth, if the Torah tells us that they were old, why must we be told that they were advanced in days as well ?

Traditionally Jews bless each other with the blessing for  "arichat yamim v'shanim ( long days and years).Why both long days and long years?

Rav Tukachinsky explains that we are blessing the other person that his years be many and that those years be truly filled with days (Gesher HaChaim V. 3, Ch. 2).

 The term  Arichut Shanim (the lengthened years)  relates to the concept of many years and old age.

Arichut Yamim (the lengthened days) relates to making every day seem like an eternity filled with meaning and purpose .

In the verse describing Abraham ""Now, Abraham was old  and advanced in days (ba beyamim, ibid) we are meant to understand that the first half of these verses are meant to tell us the chronological reality of these lives, while the second describes the qualitative essence of those years. Filling our days with meaning and purpose is in our hands, the number of years in our lives is not.

Living a life united with G-d's will and purpose fills our days with meaning and direction. We succeed in "lengthening our days".

The Torah uses the three commandments of honoring one's parents, the manner in which one may gather the eggs of a bird and the approach to others in our daily living to create the models of purposeful and spiritual filled living.

That is the reason the Torah is very purposeful in its choice of words.

My son, forget not My instruction, and may your heart keep My commandments; for they shall add length of days and years of life and peace to you."(Proverbs 3:1-2)

Our days become lengthened and meaningful while our years are then filled with true living.

Lerefuat Kol HaPtzuim ve Hacholim

Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther