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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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dave jones December 20, 2016

if we could travel back 5000 years, the first thing we would do is be physically sick or even pass out,as we breathe in the unpolluted air that we do today.your food would taste much stronger containing more minerals and not poisoned by the pesticides and preservatives, the fish wouldn't be full of mercury, we wouldn't be eating processed food full of nasty chemicals, Reply

Rudy December 25, 2015

The decline in ages from Adam to Noah and then to Abraham fits a biological decay curve almost perfectly. Why do any of us age? Because over time we accumulate mutations as our cells divide. As we accumulate mutations the cells are less able to carry out their function. We are at a disadvantage that Adam and those early generations did not have: we start off with mutations that we inherit from both are parents, Adam and Eve were created perfect without mutations. After they were placed under the curse their bodies slowly accumulated mutations resulting in death. Imagine needing to pass a physics exam and you were given a physics textbook to study from and if you studies the textbook perfectly you could in theory receive a passing grade of 100%. Now, let's say the class in the following semester is only allowed to receive a copy of the original textbook, but everytime you copy the textbook about 5 to 10% on the information will be loss. After enough information loss, genetic meltdown is Reply

Midget01 La Porte December 23, 2015

I have been following this for quite some time and I am inclined to agree somewhat with Anonymous of Earth that because Adam and Eve were the first created they were created more perfect and lived a wonderful life until they fell into sin and then things began to change. So it is possible for those who were created more towards the beginning to be made more perfect and could live longer then those who came generations later. While the calendars did change slightly it would not have come to a few hundred years different. Yet numbers did have a different meaning back then and were often placed in writings to show a religious significance. So perhaps this might have been part of their reasoning as well. In those days years meant wisdom; our society today does not give older people the respect of years in the same way anymore. Reply

Bill Balano Toronto December 21, 2015

You guys were so funny without even trying. You really made my day. Thanks a lot. Reply

Murray A Gewirtz BROOKLYN December 20, 2015

When did the shoes transform into pants? Reply

Anonymous Earth December 19, 2015

Adam/Eve were created perfect. Perfect bodies, hearts, health, etc. With the inability to get sick or suffer old age. They were not going to die...that is, until they sinned. After that, the perfection disappeared and theu began to age/suffer sickness/etc. The reason people lived so long back then Adam, his children, etc, is because they weresi close to perfection.... having those perfect genes.

It's like buying a new pair of shoes. When you first where them they're clean and new, let's say you give them to your son, and he to his son, etc. Eventually the pants won't look new anymore, but instead they become worn. Reply

Nicholas sizer United Kingdom October 5, 2015

I am aware this is wrong because them days they never had 12 months in a year so they weren't nearly 1000 years old In today's years maybe back then when they never had months. Reply

Jonathan Wick June 18, 2017
in response to Nicholas sizer:

Months and years were measured the similar as they are today. Reference the bible when Moses talks about the great flood "on the seventh day of the seventh month" there are a few others.

People argue that months were considered years back then This can't be true either because the bible speaks on several people in Genesis being father's at 65 years, do the math if this were months then they would be 5 yearold fathers. Reply

Bill Balano Toronto August 4, 2015

Lot and the old man in Judges 19 were both hosts protecting their guests from evil men of their time. The similarities end there. Fortunately for Lot, his guests were angels in disguise carrying out G-d's order. Unfortunately, the old man's guest in Judges 19 was an undisciplined guy who had a hard time saying "no". Although both of these events ended in a tragic way, there are more differences than similarities. Just remember evil ways bring destruction. Reply

Jim Stinehart August 3, 2015

Judges 19 is a re-telling of, and partial misunderstanding of, the experience of the angels in Lot’s Sodom. Judges 19 is correct in locating, in effect, Lot’s Sodom in the Jezreel Valley. [Per Genesis 13: 9, Abram sojourns south of Bethel, and Lot (although leaving Bethel going east in order to turn north at the Jordan River) sojourns north of Bethel, with Lot’s Sodom being in the lush Jezreel Valley, where soft city life beckoned.] In Genesis 19, Lot reasonably fears that the angels will be mistaken for agents of Pharaoh whom the locals hate (having recently burned to the ground the Egyptian garrison at nearby Beth-Shean). So to protect these men/angels, Lot insists that the angels lodge with him that night, provided that they must be gone from Sodom at the crack of dawn the very next day. Lot does good in protecting the angels, but errs in not opposing the locals’ rebellion. Reply

Leo August 2, 2015

Hello! Please, can you discuss the similarities of Lot in Sodom and Judges 19? Reply

Emanuel Akkerman Iseral July 26, 2015

maybe the patriarchs of genesis did not actually live to be that old.


.....just a thought Reply

Ben Kleschinsky Earth 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. Reply

Eli Asarch Denver,CO 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. Reply

Murray A. Gewirtz Brooklyn, NY January 5, 2015

re-Connections 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. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org 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? Reply

Eli Asarch Denver 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. Reply

Rudy 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. Reply

Murray A. Gewirtz Brooklyn, NY December 24, 2014

connections 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? Reply

Eli Asarch Denver 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. Reply

Anonymous Torono December 23, 2014

This sounds like utter nonsense. There is no scientific evidence to back any of this. Reply

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