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Why Did People in the First Millennia Live for So Long?

Why Did People in the First Millennia Live for So Long?


Dear Rabbi,

Can you explain why the lifespans of the early generations were incredibly long? According to Genesis, Adam died at age 930, Noah was almost 500 when he started building the ark (not bad!), and Methuselah lived a world record 969 years. So what happened? Why don’t we live that long anymore?


The longevity of our patriarchs raises several questions. What does it feel like to hit 900? When did they have their midlife crisis? Were centenarians getting up to teenage mischief? Did parents tell their children, “Stop acting like a 40-year-old!”?

Whatever the case, the first few generations of humanity lived extremely long lives, and then after Noah’s flood we see a dramatic reduction in average lifespan—people begin to live as long as we do today.

We know that each soul that comes into the world arrives with a set of missions to fulfill. The person housing that soul is given a lifespan that is long enough to complete these missions.

The main difference between the earlier and later generations is that the first generations of humanity had large, “all-encompassing” souls. People in later generations possessed only fragments of those original souls. Those souls were broken up and shared between several individuals.

The earlier generations had big souls and long lifespans, because they had a lot of work to do. In later generations, these big souls were spread out among thousands and millions of individuals, in the form of smaller souls with less work to do, and thus shorter lifetimes to do it in.

But if, for whatever reason, a soul does not complete all the work it needs to in one lifetime, it is given more chances. A reincarnated soul is a spark of an earlier soul that comes back to earth in a new body to complete unfinished business from its previous life.

None of us know how much time we have, but we do know that we don’t have centuries. We don’t have the luxury to start building our ark when we are 500. Better start now.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Discussion (111)
July 26, 2015
maybe the patriarchs of genesis did not actually live to be that old.

.....just a thought
Emanuel Akkerman
January 22, 2015
God does not control our destiny?
I'd like to make the argument that it is our individual choice what we want to do. God does not force us or want us to do anything. He just wants us to stay holly. He loves us and doesn't want to see us fall into the devils hand. He's not going to stop us from evil influence. Its our job to stay holly, its our job to get things done. To think god controls our destiny is a little disheartening. Are you saying everything you do is not your work, you didn't work hard, god made you do it? I don't believe so. God gives us free will to do what we please. He only gave us one thing, life and its our job to make something out of it. We can choose to sit down and shut up or rise to our own destiny. However, if god made Noah live longer because he wanted him to do something I believe that. But to say that he controls all souls, that he controlled noah, that noah wasn't his own soul I believe is not true. Noah learned to tap into god and gain insight from him. Something we should all thrive for.
Ben Kleschinsky
January 6, 2015
Re: Re: Counter Arguement
Based on that article, the brain and the soul are the same thing. The two things attributed to the soul. A want to connect with God and self-preservation are in the brain. If it was responding to a outside force i that is not physical, then it should be detected by better equipment. It also doesn't explain How you (or anyone from any religion for that matter) know this? A claim stated without evidence can be refuted without evidence.
Eli Asarch
January 5, 2015
To Eli Asarch. I'm sorry, I must not have made myself clear. When I said Barney Asarch taught in the English department, I meant he taught secular, as opposed to Jewish subjects. I had him as a teacher in a yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY.
Murray A. Gewirtz
Brooklyn, NY
December 26, 2014
Re: Counter Arguement
The body and soul are meant to work in tandem. The body and "brain" are a receptacle for the soul. So while it is true that with a damaged brain one is limited. It is also true, that if you have a perfect and complete brain, if it isn't "alive" then it cannot do anything either. In short, the body needs the soul, and the soul needs the body. For more on what the soul is see What is a Soul?
Yehuda Shurpin for
December 25, 2014
re: Murray A. Gerwirtz
To Murray A. Gerwirtz. No, my family moved from Russia to the USA in the early 1900s and never came to England.
Eli Asarch
December 24, 2014
Eli, I do not have any "solid" answers since we are talking about something metaphysical like the "Soul", but I do have some additional thoughts regarding these points you have made:
1. Saying the Brain is synonymous with the Human brain becomes very problematic when discussing something like Free Will. Famous philosophers, biologists, and physicists (Einstein included), knew that if all that exists is matter obeying physical laws then everything is predetermined, including, for example, what you will have for breakfast in 10 years. The only way Free Will is possible is if there is a "supernatural" component( i. e. the soul ) that allows you to choose different than what the biochemical reactions in your brain would have you choose. If you don't believe in Free Will then it becomes even more perplexing because then there really would not be any point in arguing with people (including whether there is a soul or not), because they have no choice in what they think or what they do.
December 24, 2014
To Eli Asarch: Speaking of connections, are you any relation to Barney Asarch , WWII veteran, who taught in the English (secular) department of a yeshiva in Brooklyn in the early 1950's?
Murray A. Gewirtz
Brooklyn, NY
December 24, 2014
Counter Agurment
You made the point that souls come into this world with a set of goals. This is my counter argument against the existence of souls.
Premise 1: Souls are an individual's personality, thoughts, and connection with god and it is immortal and is not physical.
Premise 2: The human brain is a physical object that is made of several interlocking parts that act together to produce results.
Premise 3: If one removed part of the human brain, a certain action or thought can no longer be produced by that human.
Premise 4: This includes personality, thoughts and connection to any god no matter the religion.
Conclusion: The soul either doesn't exist, or is a synonym for the human brain.
I cannot see any flaw in my logic or facts, if there some, please let me know.
Eli Asarch
December 23, 2014
This sounds like utter nonsense. There is no scientific evidence to back any of this.
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