Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Everything has its own proper time and age.”

“From the human point of view, life is but life, its main goal being life itself.

Religious Jewish life, however, is not “just life:” it contains certain goals and missions.

According to this view, living well means fulfilling life’s mission. This mission contains many parts and details, yet its essence is to perfect the body, the soul and the world, in the framework of an ongoing relationship with God.

This mission is to be fulfilled not at a certain age or life-period, but rather in each and every part of life, and in any situation in which one finds oneself.

Indeed, the system of commandments, in its entirety, shows that there is nothing, either in time or place, that does not somehow pertain to worshipping the Almighty and to the aspiration to perfect the soul and elevate the world.

Every nook and cranny in the Jew’s life is surrounded by commandments, and the Jew is obligated to fulfill them at each and every moment.

So long as he does so properly, he fulfills life’s aim. True, everything has its own proper time and age; yet in no time and age is one exempt from God’s worship.

In every age, one has different roles, according to his strength and ability at that specific age and situation; and just as there are special functions for the young adult, so there are other roles that one is bound to fulfill as one progresses along the course of life.

According to Judaism, the course of life – of real life – is not seen as an ascent towards adulthood, and from then on only descent.

Rather, it is an uninterrupted journey “from strength to strength.”

Starting out life as an amorphous, inchoate mass, a utensil that has not yet taken shape, man goes on to acquires a more complete form, which he keeps shaping constantly through much study and good deeds, along with a constant perfection of body and soul, by directing them towards the real aim of life.

Seeing life as a whole, all of whose parts are equally important, gives a very different evaluation of life. Once man builds this ability to live the present, to live life as it is, without picturing imaginary ideals, he can live old age just as happily as the young adult, in the peak of his vigor.

For the inevitable physical changes of old age are usually accompanied with parallel spiritual changes, which give man the possibility not to feel these physical changes – emotionally – at all.

Thus, when one puts aside all those imaginary aspirations that cannot be fulfilled, one can draw and enjoy goodness from every point along the path of life, and live life itself.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz