Never Stop Growing

The name of our Torah portion is “Vayeshev”, which means: “And he settled down” (התיישב). Jacob settles down in Israel after many decades of living abroad.

Jacob achieved many things in his life. He spent years working on his spiritual growth, and became a great Torah scholar. Jacob also went out to the “real world”, and excelled in business. And he also raised a large and beautiful family.

By now, Jacob felt that he was ready to retire, to “settle down”, relax, and work on his golf. But Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains that this was a mistake. Great people never retire. At the age of 93, in the very same day in which Shimon Peres suffered his massive stroke, that very morning, Peres gave a 90 minute lecture to Israeli industrialists while standing on his feet, and without using any notes.

During his life, every now and then, a nagging journalist would ask Mr. Peres: “So when are you going to retire?” Peres always gave the same answer: “I will continue to work, as long as I can serve something greater than myself.”

One of the greatest Torah scholars of our time, Rabbi Eliezer Shach, lived to be 102. And he still gave Torah classes at the young age of 100.

A couple of years ago, we lost in our synagogue a wonderful soul, the late Louise Bilman. She was 92 years old. Dr. Bilman worked as a therapist to her dying day. During her funeral, I learned that she even had patients booked for the following week.

Never “settling down” in the Torah sense, doesn’t necessarily entail not stopping to work for a paycheck in the formal sense of the term. The notion of never “settling down”, in a spiritual sense, is about constantly striving to grow and empower others, and to be a force for the good in our world.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Sessler

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