Serve God in Every Season
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In Judaism, one of the 613 mitzvot commands given to the children of Israel is to show respect for the elderly because of their wisdom, and to uphold their dignity. Paul echoed this command in his letter to his younger protégé, Timothy:
"Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers, ..." (NLT)
According to Jewish tradition, Abraham’s coins contained an image of a young man and woman on one side and an image of an elderly man and woman on the other. Of course, these images weren’t simply there to beautify Abraham’s currency. They had a message and meaning that both Abraham and Sarah carried with them throughout their lives.
It’s a reminder of the lessons we can learn from the seasons of our lives – our youth and our senior years.
The young have an advantage over the elderly. They are full of passion and strength. They are more physically able and, very often, more ideologically driven. This is why so many reform movements have started on college campuses – the young are energized and ready to do what it takes to achieve their goals.
However, youth has its drawbacks as well. Young people lack the experience and maturity of the older generation. For all they do know, there is so much more that they don’t know. They may have inspired ideas, but they don’t have the experience that might teach them how to achieve their ideals in the best possible way. In addition, the young are easily distracted by their passions and desires for all things physical. These things can also hold them back from achieving their goals.
The elderly have an advantage over the young in this arena. Physicality eventually loses its shine and shimmer. We grow wiser as we get older. We realize the emptiness of material possessions. We have learned from our experiences and have refined our characters.
However, we also face challenges. Unlike the young, our bodies have gone through much more living. We might feel more tired and less agile than in our youth. It’s also common to have lost some of our passion for life as we age. When we were once energized and inspired by taking on a new challenge, it’s hard to get excited about things you’ve been doing for the past 40 years.
The two sides of Abraham’s coins teach us that a person needs to draw upon the benefits of both old age and youth at all times. When we are young, we need to cultivate our maturity and master our passions while serving God with our natural excitement and vigor. In old age, we need to muster up strength and motivation, while serving God with our hard-earned wisdom.
In Exodus, we read that two sacrifices were required to be brought every day – one at dawn and one at dusk.
“This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight.” (NIV)
The Jewish sages teach that the lesson for us is that we, too, must make sacrifices for God at the dawn of our lives and at the dusk of our lives; when we are young and when we are old. We need to serve God in our first season and our last – and every season in between.
Copyright © 2019 Rabbi Yael Eckstein, used with permission.
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