Parshat Naso begins with the commandment to take a census of the sons of Gershon, one of the families responsible for the service in the Mishkan. The Torah states, “Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers’ houses and by their clans. From thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, all who can come to do duty, to do service in the tent of meeting.”
At first glance, these pessukim may appear as logistical instructions, specifying the age range and method for counting the eligible Levi’im for their service. This makes logical sense, as thirty is traditionally the time where one has enough basic life experience to assume leadership roles and responsibilities, whereas fifty symbolizes a transitional period in one’s life where one’s physical abilities may start to decline. But why did the Torah command any specific age? Shouldn’t service in the Mishkan be based on one’s physical ability, and if one has the ability to work past 50, they should be allowed to?
Obviously yes, there are many people who can work well into their 50’s and 60’s. Personally, I know many people in their 60’s who put my physical abilities in my 30’s to shame. However, the Torah made a term limit to possibly teach us that even though one may be good enough to continue with their work in the Mishkan, they must make room for the next generation to come in and take their place. A selfless act for continuous growth and fresh talent, in the mission of giving new family members a chance to work in the Mishkan. The Levi’im were called to make the most of the work in the Mishkan, utilizing their energy and talents to serve others and contribute meaningfully towards the beautification of the Mishkan and now the new talent will be able to come in and build on that great work.
There are always two perspectives when looking at being forced out of a role due to a term or age limit. The negative one (which I won’t mention) and the positive one mentioned above; leaving a role with one’s head held high, knowing that they did the best they could possibly do in the limited time that they were on the job and to use that “completing on a high” as a springboard for growth in their next life’s mission. If one were to look at the perspective of a job or responsibility not as permanent, boring and stale, but rather as temporary with a time limit, one will hopefully maximize the time they have for it.
On a macro level in life as well, one only has 120 years in this world and many of those years have already passed. To add to the fun, we never know when our last day on earth will be. Should we be aware of this fact long enough to possibly spend less time on all of the world’s stupidity and pettiness? Let’s appreciate the ultra-fragility of life as an “excuse” to push ourselves every single day for maximum accomplishment.