Kenneth Cohen

Secret to Longevity

It was very clear that Pharaoh was very impressed when he met Yakov Avinu. It was well known that Egypt was blessed with the presence of a holy man like Yakov.
Our commentators felt that Yakov made a serious error in the way he answered Pharaoh in describing his life. He was only asked his age. But instead, he apparently complained about his difficult life.

Yakov said that his years were מעט ורעים, “few and bad.” He should never have become bitter and negative, despite all of the difficulties he went through in his life. He lived significantly less years than his father and grandfather. (Yakov lived 147 years, Yitzchak 180 years, and Avraham 175 years.)

We are never supposed to feel sorry for ourselves because of the challenges placed before us. We are to embrace these challenges and accept that they are meant to shape and strengthen us.

I have been privileged to know a number of relatives who have reached their mid-nineties, and are still going strong. What they have in common is a very positive outlook towards life. They are upbeat, positive people, that have learned to see the good in every situation.

Perhaps there is a connection with Yakov Avinu. His life was shortened because of his bitterness. While others seem to be blessed with longevity, for being positive and appreciating every breath of life.

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
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