"Once there was a man who filmed his vacation. He went flying down the river in his boat with his video camera to his eye, making a moving picture of the moving river upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly toward the end of his vacation. He showed his vacation to his camera, which pictured it, preserving it forever: the river, the trees, the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat behind which he stood with his camera preserving his vacation even as he was having it so that after he had had it he would still have it. It would be there. With a flick of a switch, there it would be. But he would not be in it. He would never be in it."—Wendell Berry
Seizing the Moment
V'Avraham v'Sara zekeinim ba'im bayamim. "Now, Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years."
If Abraham and Sarah were old, isn't it obvious that they were well on in years?
They were always totally "there"
But the Hebrew word ba'im literally means "entering." And the literal translation of bayamim is "in the days."
Hence the literal translation of the verse is: "And Abraham and Sarah were old, they entered in the days…"
They entered each day as one would enter his home, fully and without reserve. They connected with each moment and held it close. They embraced time and allowed themselves to be embraced by it.
They were always totally "there," whenever and wherever they were.
Thus, the first half of the verse refers to the amount of years, very many of them, that Abraham and Sarah lived. The second half informs us of the manner in which those years were lived.
They were no stranger to hardship; they were often its host—but they never sought escape. They didn't hide when faced with difficulties; they dealt, as best as they could.
Ignoring a moment's call, they believed, is ignoring its caller.
They truly lived life in the here and now.
Chassidim are wont to say that age isn't told by your ID card.
Ever noticed that two people could be the same age, perhaps born on the same day, even led similar lives—yet one of them is wrinkle-free, while the other one looks ancient?
The former never let things get to him; the latter rarely did not.
The former built impregnable walls around him, afraid to fight a war; the latter's face is filled with furrows, his battle scars.
The former has an intricate defense system, mechanisms to ward off pain; the latter decided to never build one, viewing such a system – not the pain – as the enemy.
To him any form of blocking out life equals death.
Painkillers – literal or figurative – also numb joy
Because the impenetrable walls built for security don't distinguish between hate and love. They do their job indiscriminately, keeping out friend and foe alike.
Painkillers – literal or figurative – also numb joy.
Wrinkles are often a sign of hardship and grief, but they also tell the story of laughter and joy.
Time to rethink Botox?
V'Avraham zaken ba bayamim. "Now, Abraham was old, well on years…"
This verse is stated a full forty-one years after the first verse describing Abraham's (and Sarah's) age. Why the need for a second report? Isn't obvious that, unless you're Benjamin Button, someone old and well on in years only gets older and weller on-in-years as time passes?
Were this verse to refer to the quantity of years Abraham had lived, the question would stand. But it does not; it refers, again, to the quality of Abraham's life.
It is within the nature of man to grow less excitable the more he ages. For excitement and novelty are closely related. Since very little is new to him – he's seen it all – things, good or bad, rarely affect him. His mode of existence, views, and reactions are pretty much set in stone.
But Abraham was different.
He never grew old in that sense. He might have aged in years but not in spirit. He was as open to learning and change like a youngster on his first day of school.
This is the Torah's point in stating the same verse twice.
Forty-one years had passed between them, years filled with suffering and joy. Yet, Abraham was still young at heart.
In those four decades, the entire region of Sodom had been destroyed. Sarah had been abducted by Abimelech and released.
After a lifetime of barrenness, Sarah bore him a son!
He had been brought to drive Hagar and Ishmael out of his home. There was the dispute over his property with Abimelech. Then the truce.
He opened an inn in the meantime. Then embarked on a groundbreaking campaign to promote monotheism.
He was reunited with his penitent son, Ishmael.
He was tested by G‑d many times over, culminating with the traumatic Binding of Isaac.
Most recently, his life companion and rock, his beloved Sarah, had died.
So many challenges, so many milestones, so much change…
So many challenges, so many milestones, so much change… Yet, Abraham still hadn't grown old. Older in years perhaps, but not old in character.
He had every right, by now, to stop "entering" his days; but he considered that right to be wrong.
He had every excuse in the world to retire from vigorous living; But to retire would mean to expire.
Until his last day he would never stop taking messages from life.
He wore his flowing white beard and matching head of hair as one would a badge of honor. The crinkles around his eyes that hinted of countless smiles, he considered beauty marks.
What's in It for Me?
Sometimes we're so busy making a living that we forget to live. Sometimes we're so busy doing that we forget about being.
Sometimes we're so busy dodging life's curveballs that we forget to swing at its strikes.
Time passed does not mean time lived. Time managed does not mean time well spent.
Always remain open—in mind, spirit, heart, and soul, for learning never ends.
Every day has its song. Every hour its call. Every second offers something unique and fleeting.
Every moment is heaven knocking at your door.
To be sure, the hurts of life are sometimes excruciating, and rightfully call for a needed respite, but the keys to the gates erected must always be retained, otherwise one's castle can become one's prison.