Kenneth Cohen

Judaism and Aging

The end of Masechet Shabbat, has a long discussion of the subject of aging. It begins by quoting seven verses from the Book of Kohelet.

Following the theme of the book, that all is vanity, Shlomo Hamelech included aging as one of the vanities of the world. He clearly wrote of the negative side of aging.

He describes with symbolism how the body is unable to do what it used to when it was young. The implication is that this process is unfair and difficult to bare.

The Talmud continues with stories of rabbis who did not participate in their usual activities, citing their aging as the reason. Clearly, the argument is made that getting old has its challenges to say the least.

The Tamud then points out that most of this is not true of the Torah scholar, and one who dedicated his life towards doing Chessed, acts of kindness. For these righteous people, old age is the most glorious time of their life. People come to them for advice and guidance, and they are surrounded by their students and admirers. If one hasn’t made the proper preparations, old age can be a nightmare. But for those who lived life to the fullest, old age is a crown of glory for them.

We must wake up when we are young to take stock of our lived, so that we will not have serious regrets later.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at