In Pursuit of Longevity


By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss

From the time of the Gemora, Jews have asked people who merited long life the perennial question, Bameh harachtah yomim – What do you attribute your longevity to?  In the Gemora in Taanis, we find many fascinating answers to this question.  Rav Ada bar Ahava answered, “Lolam lo hikpaditi b’soch beisi – I never showed my displeasure and dissatisfaction about something that took place in my home.”  Another sage said, “Lolam lo olsa al mitasi kil’las chaveirai – I never took upon my bed a complaint against my friend.”  In other words, he always forgave people who wronged him before he went to sleep.  Another stated, “Vatron b’mimoni hayisi – I wasn’t exacting in monetary matters,” and yet another responded, “Maavir al midosai hayisi – I looked away and didn’t demand to get my way.”

If you are perceptive, you would have noticed that the common denominator of all of these answers is the possession of a spirit of gentleness and tolerance.  This is consistent with the Tosefos HaRosh who says that with all of the noble traits of Noach which include that he was a tzadik/righteous man, a tamim/complete, well-rounded individual, and “Es HaElokim his’halech Noach, that he walked with G-d.  The greatest achievement was the one that the Torah mentions first, “Eilah toldos Noach – These are the accounts of Noach,” that he was ‘noach,’ a gentle person.  If people perceive you as easygoing, this is a sure sign that G-d is please with you, as the Mishna in Pirkei Avos states categorically, “Kol she’ruach habrios noche heimenu, ruach haMakom noche hemeinu – Whomever people are at ease with, that’s a sure sign that Hashem is pleased with that person as well.”

When they asked Rav Moshe Feinstein, Zt”l, Zy”a, what he attributed his long life to, he answered, “My whole life I never caused pain to another human being.”  When they asked Reb Yakov Kamanetsky, he answered that he never told a lie and he tried never to hurt another person’s feelings.  When they asked Rav Shach, he gave a fascinating answer.  He said that he always bentched from a bentcher.  Then, there are the Gemora’s favorite responses: reviewing the weekly portion twice from Chumash and once from the Onkelos, concentrating on the meaning of Amein and Shema, honoring one’s parents and, of course, the study of Torah.

One of my disciples shared with me another interesting answer.  A centenarian told him that he had the habit over his long life not to ask G-d “Why did You do this and why did You do that?”  He explained that if people constantly question Hashem, ‘Why is He doing this’ and ‘This isn’t fair’ and ‘That isn’t fair,’ Hashem then says, ‘Okay, come up and I’ll give you all the answers you need.’  This centenarian emphasized, “I made it a point not to question Hashem, knowing that He knows what He’s doing and, “Kol mad’aved Rachmana letava avid – Whatever the Merciful One does is for the good,” and therefore He let me stay on this world for one hundred long years.

May it be the will of Hashem that we follow all of these excellent recipes and in that merit may we all live long lives in good health and with everything wonderful.

Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’ articles.

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