One of the difficulties of reading the Torah from a literalist perspective (and yes, I do truly believe that every word in the Bible is a Divinely inspired description of actual historical events) is accepting as factual the reported ages of the Biblical characters.

People aren't so bothered by the fantastic longevity recorded for those who lived in the immediate generations post creation, the Methuselahs et al, as the Torah clearly states that post flood, nature and the aging process changed to accord with modern life-expectancies. What raises eyebrows is, for example, the information that our forefather Abraham had "recognised G‑d" and developed his whole system of monotheism by the age of three, yet was made to wait till age 100 for the opportunity to father and begin rearing a child who would ensure the propagation of that system.

Or, for example, we read in this week's Parshah how Rebecca was sent to draw water from the well and met Abraham's servant Eliezer. The story develops with her subsequent decision to leave home, against her families express wishes, to marry Abraham's child, Isaac. Did you know that this entire episode took place when Rebecca was only three years old?

This last is not totally incomprehensible. It must be remembered that we live in such a blessed time and society, that for us the image of a child carrying water from the well is an incongruity. For much of history and even today in many less economically advanced countries, child labour and indeed child marriage was/is the norm.

It is staggering to consider, however, that a child could have the emotional and intellectual maturity to come to an independent conclusion about their own future, or the place of humanity in the divine pantheon, at such a young age.

On the other hand, consider the strength of character entailed in beginning anew at Abraham's advanced age. Clearly our forefathers were larger than life characters by our standards, gifted with rare abilities and proclivities.

Equally true however is the recognition that we are not exempt from the responsibility to emulate them. Each of us has inherited the ability to bring about far reaching changes to the system and ourselves, at any age and stage of life. Youth is no hindrance and age is no barrier.