Long Days and Long Years

Moshe Kempinski

King Solomon teaches about the process of “Arichut Yamim- the lengthening of our days”. He writes in the book of Proverbs the following
“My son, forget not My instruction, and may your heart keep My commandments; for they shall add length of days and years of life and peace to you.”(Proverbs 3:1-2)
Then again he teaches;
“The fear of Hashem is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.”(Proverbs 9:10-11)
King Solomon was taught this spiritual truth taught by his father King David who speaks of this same idea in his psalms. Yet in fact King Solomon is taught this understanding by Hashem Himself.
“And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will lengthen you days.”(I Kings 3:14)
In general we are told , the keeping of the mitzvot ( G-d’s commandments) and being obedient to His will brings about Arichut Yamim-the lengthening of days in our lives. (Deuteronomy 4:40, 5:30, 6:2, 11:09, 17:20,and 32:47)
Interestingly in our Torah portion the process is reduced to the microcosm of one mitzvah;
If a bird’s nest chances before you on the road, on any tree, or on the ground, and [it contains] fledglings or eggs, if the mother is sitting upon the fledglings or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother upon the young. You shall send away the mother, and [then] you may take the young for yourself, in order that it should be good for you, and you should lengthen your days.”(Deuterony 22:6-7)
We see this again regarding the commandment of honoring one’s parents
“Honor your father and your mother as Hashem your G-d commanded you, in order that your days be lengthened, and that it may go well with you on the land that Hashem, your G-d, is giving you.”(Deuteronomy 5:16)
And once more with the commandment regarding the laws of honest business activity.
“you shall have a full and honest weight, [and] a full and honest ephah measure, in order that your days will be prolonged on the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you”(Deuteronomy 25:15).
We are struck with two questions.

The first is why were these three commandments singled out with regards to the “lengthening of our days”?

The second is that our experiences in life has taught us that the rewards for the fulfilment of G-d’s will is not always readily apparent in this world, so how can such a promise be made?

The Talmud describes a tragic situation wherein a father instructs his son to ascend a tower to bring him some chicks. The son climbed up, sent away the mother and took the chicks. On his way down he fell and died. ( Chullin; 142). The Talmud raises the painful and obvious question regarding a young man dying after fulfilling two commandments , both of which include the concept of ” in order that your days be lengthened, “.

The Talmud then suggests the possibility that rewards for spiritually motivated actions are not readily perceived in our natural world.

Yet we are still left with a quandary regarding the words “in order that your days be lengthened”.Perhaps insight into this can be found in a description of Abraham our forefather.
We are told the following;
“Now, Abraham was old (Zaken) and advanced in days (Bah BeYamim”( Genesis 24:1).In truth, if the Torah tells us that they were old, why must we be told that they were advanced in days as well ?
Traditionally Jews bless each other with the blessing for “arichat yamim v’shanim ( long days and years).Why both long days and long years? Rav Tukachinsky explains that we are blessing the other person that his years be many and that those years be truly filled with days (Gesher HaChaim V. 3, Ch. 2). The term Arichut Shanim (the lengthened years) relates to the concept of many years and old age. Arichut Yamim (the lengthened days) relates to making every day seem like an eternity .

In the verse describing Abraham “”Now, Abraham was old and advanced in days (BAH BEYAMIM) (ibid) we are meant to understand that the first half of these verses are meant to tell us the chronological reality of these lives, while the second describes the qualitative essence of those years. Filling our days with meaning and purpose is in our hands, the number of years in our lives is not.

Living a life united with G-d’s will and purpose fills our days with meaning and direction. We succeed in “lengthening out days”. The Torah uses the three commandments of honoring one’s parents, the manner in which one may gather the eggs of a bird and the approach to others in our daily living to create the models of purposeful and spiritual filled living.
That is the reason the Torah is very purposeful in its choice of words.
My son, forget not My instruction, and may your heart keep My commandments; for they shall add length of days and years of life and peace to you.”(Proverbs 3:1-2)
Our days become lengthened and meaningful while our years are filled with true living.

Le-Refuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

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