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A Junior Senior

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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A Junior Senior

For many, as they reach old age, they wither. Others, however, just get better with age. They fulfill עוד ינובון בשיבה דשנים ורעננים יהיו, they will still be fruitful in old age, vigorous and fresh they will be.[1] It has been said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”[2] In this way we can interpret אל תשליכני לעת זקנה, do not cast me off in old age.[3]


If you keep an active life, you stay vernal and young. Someone once said, “Staying young means being willing to learn, evolve and be open to life.”


After Rosh Hashanah in 1988, at the age of 86, the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched another major initiative. Noting his advanced age,[4] the Rebbe quipped, “I am not as old as it says on my passport. If you will carry out what I am requesting now, it will be a sign that you do not perceive me as an old Jew, but as a young man with young ideas.”

The pasuk says in reference to the Akeida ויקח את שני נעריו אתו, Avraham took his two young men with him.[5] An alternate explanation given is that Avraham took his younger years with him, as שני נעריו (literally it means two young men) can be translated as his vernal, youthful years. When one is younger, he is more energetic and passionate, and thinks he can conquer the world. As he gets older, he has been demoralized by others and has run into dead ends. Avraham at the Akeida was old, as he was 137 years old. However, he acted young as the pasuk tells us that he took his younger youthful years with him.


Ever since the 1960s, R’ Dovid Kviat’s[6] (1920–2009) hands would shake. Yet, he overcame this physical impediment and continued to write his own chidushim. However, very few people were able to decipher his handwriting, and therefore were unable to type them up. Undeterred, R’ Kviat was able to locate someone in Yerushalayim who could still read his writing. However, a few years before he died, R’ Kviat’s handwriting deteriorated further. Now, no one could decipher his handwriting, not even R’ Kviat himself. Undaunted, he continued to write, because writing helped him crystallize his Torah thoughts. It helped him further his understanding of the sugya. Then, someone suggested that he learn how to type on a computer. His initial reaction was that he was too old to learn a new skill. He was almost eighty and the shaking in his hands was significant, not to mention his eyesight was now quite poor. Nevertheless, he tried his hand at typing, and in a matter of a few days, he was typing a few thousand words per day. A few months and a few sefarim later, he called the person who taught him how to type and said, “I want a laptop!”


Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer conducted an experiment in 1979. She wanted to recreate the world of 1959 and ask subjects to live as though it were twenty years earlier. Eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside, including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around, was designed to conjure 1959. The men didn’t just reminisce about what things were like at that time (a control group did that). They were instructed to behave as if it were actually 1959, while the control group lived in a similar environment but didn’t act as if it were decades ago. They discussed historical events as if they were current news, and no provisions were made that acknowledged the men’s weakened physical state; no one carried their bags or helped them up the stairs or treated them like they were old. Nothing — no mirrors, no modern-day clothing, no photos except portraits of their much younger selves — spoiled the illusion that they had shaken off 22 years. A week later, both the control group and the experimental group showed improvements in “physical strength, manual dexterity, gait, posture, perception, memory, cognition, taste sensitivity, hearing, and vision. Most of those improvements were much more significant in the group told to live as if it were actually 1959; a full 63% of them had better intelligence test scores at the end of the experiment than they did at the beginning, compared to 44% in the control group. Four independent volunteers, who knew nothing about the study, looked at before and after photos of the men in the experimental group and perceived those in the “after” photos as an average of two years younger than those in the “before.” On the last day of the study, Langer wrote, men who had seemed so frail just days before ended up playing an impromptu touch football game on the front lawn.

[1] Tehillim 92:15.

[2] There is a saying, “If you want to kill a big dream, share it with small-minded people.”

[3] Tehillim 71:9.

[4] When the Lubavitcher Rebbe suffered a heart attack in 1977, R’ Moshe Feinstein penned a letter to his rabbinic colleagues asking them to make a public appeal for congregants to involve themselves in the mitzvah campaigns of Chabad such as tefillin, mezuza and Shabbos candles arguing that “since it is into this that the tzadik and genius of Lubavitch puts his entire soul…certainly every activity in these campaigns will strengthen his health.”

[5] Breishis 22:3.

[6] He was a Rosh Yeshiva at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn and the Rav of the Agudas Yisrael Shul of 18th Avenue. His most famous for his works on Gemara entitled Succas Dovid.


Writer of the weekly Fascinating Insights Torah sheet in Englishעברית ,אידיש and français

Author of Six Books including the recently released “Dazzling Money Insights: Illuminating Torah Essays about Money”

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