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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?

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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?

Answer:

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 Chabad.org.
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Discussion (85)
February 8, 2014
Rudy you are so right ,but even so we need to overcome that handicap we need to find a way to read those years that way mankind can flourish explore the universe an advance in new technology and materials just think if we had 500 years of knowledge under our belt we can make anything build anything but first we have to over come these short life spans I think we look at it all wrong instead of making the perfect human just heighten our cellular healing factor to give nature a push who knows in a few generations what we might have
Anonymous
indy
September 6, 2013
Genetic Entropy
We have to remember, every child has 3 to 15 nucleotide base pair errors that are new to them, plus they inherit the mutations that were generated when their parents were born. Mutations are a LOSS of information. They are not good. Most of the time they are recessive. Think of it this was: IF you were given a physics book to study and had to pass an exam, assuming you study, and the text book is reliable you could pass with 100%. BUT if photocopy the book for the next student and lose a page with the copying , the next student will still pass, but may only get a 95%. And if every student who gets a copy of text book receives not only all the missing pages from the previous students, but new missing page with each class, then the grades will, on average, continually decline. That is what is happening with life spans. Errors in the genetic code are accumulating. Probably that is why G_d added meat to our diet after the flood. Ironically, it is the opposite of evolution. We are devolving
Rudy
September 6, 2013
It was the degredation of the genetic code!
Probably since Adam and Eve were a direct creation of G_d, they had no mutations in their genetic codes. That is also who brothers and sisters could marry at that time because they did not have mutations that would affect the offspring (unlike today where a brother and a sister have shared mutations inherited from their parents and any off spring produced would inherit both mutations and would be impaired). After Adam sinned, mankind has been slowly devolving, with mutations accumulating in the genetic code, but still man's biology was robust due to the diversity of children Adam and Eve had. When Noah's family came through the flood, it created a genetic bottleneck and the genetic diversity was lost. Plus, the environment was probably radically different after the flood. My guess is, a genetic error was shared among Noah's family and as additional mutations popped up in subsequent generations, man's biology was no longer able to sustain the effects of entropy as it once had.
Rudy
June 28, 2013
seasons
Yes I did associate the calculation of time (years) based upon the growing seasons, ie, summer , fall, winter, spring. What I failed to add was that in a lunar year there are only three (plus the percent of the current solar cycle remaining). Using this calculation I would be 552 years old. 12/4=3x4x46=552.
Anonymous
Denver
May 30, 2013
Pfftt
So please explain to me why some animals eg the tortoise can live way over one hundred years. Going along with what you said, because tortoises live longer than us humans: they must have a big role to play or job to do, one that is far more important than what we do in our lifetime. But surely tortoises sit on their arses and eat vegetation for the majority of their life span. So unless there is something magical about tortoises which we simply don't know about, what you believe is utter horse radish my friend.
Anonymous
October 16, 2012
Who speaks for G_d?
I don't know about shocked, because I know many people who do totally believe in a journey of soul, and in fact, Jewish mysticism does speak to this. Have you read your Zohar recently? There is a beautiful picture at the MOMA that shows the souls of Jews circling back to earth from the ovens of the Holocaust, and I do believe this is true. I don't think it's wise to call people pagan in a pejorative way, that is condemning, nor do I think it wise to call others ignorant. I hear many voices all the time, speaking for G_d and they have some very diverse views, but one thing they do have in common, and that is they do not call others ignorant, without first checking "their" beliefs and sources. If they do, meaning speak words of hate in the name of... I consider this the yetzer in human form. Something like reincarnation is hard to prove, isn't it? But there are many, many Jews who totally believe they came back. I respect them and that view.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
October 14, 2012
reincarnation
In the first place, if you can't trust the bible to be accurate about the lifespans of the preflood people,then why trust it at all? If you doubt one verse, how could you trust another? In the second place, where in the bible do you find even one word"reincarnation"? This is simply a pure PAGAN doctrine. I'm shocked at how little you know . Read Gen.2:7 ...and the man became a living soul (nephesh) Your viewpoint are diametrical to the word of . IG-D. It seems to me that you make up your own religion. I'll bet you won't print this comment.
Meyer Stahl
Las Cruces,NM, USA
October 14, 2012
Re: Reincarnation?
Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org
October 12, 2012
Ancestra Longevity
In Israel Torah scholars sometimes refer to the calendar year as having different Rosh Ha Shanahs. I have heard it said that there are 4 New Year dates every 365 days.
Add to this how we can glean from the Torah that the rainbow was not always visible until the misty atmosphere from pre-flood days changed. This pre-flood condition would have lent confusion to counting days between sun lit days and moon lit days, even counting one full day as two.
Depending on how long ago we are talking, the Earth's rotation could have been much faster. The result of which could have been giving misleading years of longevity to everyone back then. My guess is that one of their cookbooks with an unfamiliar ingredient might shed the ray of light we look for in the final answer for this age old question.
Sanford
Margate, Florida
October 11, 2012
Solar vs Lunar.
A previous comentor listed the harvest year as a measure to caculate age. This may be correct in that the solar calendar was not calculated untill Babylonian times when the 19 yr cycle was discovered. However, it a Greek astronomer named Menton, 432 B.C., that put the solar year into use. In other words pre Babilona, I would be 90 yrs old based on the number of harvest cycles. Remember, G-d, blessed be, did not introduce us to the lunar cycle until after we began our exodus. Thus, the age of our sages' was not as it appears.
Anonymous
Denver, CO
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