Dovid Vigler

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old!

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We don’t stop working because we get old, we get old because we stop working

A quarter of a million people showed up at a funeral last week in Israel. They came to pay their final respects to Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, one of the great Torah leaders of our time, who passed away at the age of 100. I was deeply moved by this photo of his last day on Earth, showing that he insisted on delivering his regular Talmud lecture, which he had taught for over 75 years, despite being in the ICU. He passed away in the midst of preparing his next Talmud lecture.

Whilst many of us eagerly look forward to retirement, the Torah, in contrast, takes a fascinating and counter-intuitive approach to this deeply personal life experience, which I thought you’d find enlightening.

With regards to the Levites serving in the Holy Temple, the Torah states (Bamidbar 8:24-26):
“This is [the rule] concerning the Levites: From the age of twenty-five years and upwards, he shall enter the service to work in the Tent of Meeting. From the age of fifty, he shall retire from the work legion, and do no more work. He shall minister with his brethren in the Tent of Meeting to keep the charge, but he shall not perform the service; thus shall you do for the Levites regarding their charge.”

The legal codifiers of the Torah (Maimonidies Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 3:8) qualify this ruling in reference to the heavy lifting that was the primary role of the Levites. But with regards to the musical and counseling elements of their work, they were more than welcome to continue for as long as they were able to. Why would the Torah allow the elderly to work and not simply send them home to enjoy their sunset years in peace?

The Rebbe is the one who puts this puzzle into perfect perspective as he states that longevity is a gift from G-d, not a nuisance that needs to be endured. Don’t ever make the mistake of regretting getting older—it’s a privilege denied to many. Contrary to the scorn with which modern society views the elderly, the Torah teaches us that every moment given to us is on purpose—to utilize with wisdom and grace. Age is simply the number of years that the world has been enjoying you!

When asked for his advice on retirement, the Rebbe always discouraged people from doing so. We don’t stop working because we get old, we get old because we stop working. Man is like a machine in the sense that overworking him will break him, but underworking him will cause him to rust. When someone protested that he was already seventy-five years old, the Rebbe quipped that he still had forty-five good years ahead! Your best years are ahead of you—look forward always, once you look behind you, you’re old!

Watch this inspirational video about graceful aging, titled “The Rebbe On Sacrificing Golf” by clicking here:

In describing graceful aging, the Torah tells us that Abraham and Sarah were “old, coming on in days” (Genesis 18:11). This unusual expression sheds light on the enigma of sagacity as the Torah informs us that Abraham and Sarah were sure not just to count their days— they made each day count! If G-d has given you the gift of time, it’s for you to use it to fulfill your Divine purpose on this Earth for one more day.

You’re not over the hill. You have great value, experience, and wisdom to share with the world. If you view yourself as aged, the world will treat you in kind. If you take yourself seriously, others will do the same. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years—we grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but giving up your enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Deflect the voices that tell you that you’re no longer relevant. Throw yourself into making a difference, whether it’s in your field, career, or some other contribution to society and to this world. There is no time to waste. Utilize the gift wisely.

And if you are already retired, there is so much that you can do to enrich your life and others. Devote your time to spiritual growth, learning, reading, and all the things you never had time for previously.

My favorite age is right now- it’s time to make a twinkle in your wrinkle!

Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 | 561.624.2223

Instagram @JewishGardens

About the Author
Raised in South Africa and educated in some of the finest Yeshivas in Israel, England, New York, and Australia, Rabbi Dovid Vigler strives to share the beauty and depth of Judaism in a clear, conversational, and down-to-earth manner. Whether in private counseling, relatable sermons, weekly email broadcasts, or in his popular Torah classes on social media, he reaches out to every Jew with unconditional love, patience, and compassion. His inspirational talks and uplifting messages can be found on and
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