Sunday, June 15, 2008

Israel and Me at age Sixty: Where's the Wisdom?

I was just getting over the fact that I turned sixty when behold the May Synagram came in the mail. I started reading the Rabbi’s Message “ Israel’s Wisdom at Sixty” and in the first paragraph Rabbi Katz quotes Pirke Avot that sixty years defines old age. Well, thank you very much!

Then the Rabbi tries to soften the blow by pointing out that some commentators argue that it means at sixty people reach a certain kind of wisdom. Now I am really getting depressed. People have called me a lot of names (some not printable), but no one has ever called me wise.

Please do not get me wrong- I think that the article by Rabbi Katz was moving and even wise beyond his years. I just do not agree with some of his comparisons. He contends that someone who reaches sixty years old has accumulated a great deal of experience that can lead to wisdom. But I see no correlation between age and wisdom. One can reach sixty without having
a lot of experience. Many of the experiences one has can be meaningless. Even if one has potentially useful experiences, they may have no idea what to do with them.

Unfortunately, all three of the above examples apply to me. And am I the exception to the rule? In the Bible, Methuselah lives over 900 years. Can you imagine how much experience he accumulated? But the Bible hardly claims that he is the wisest person who has ever lived.

Finally, the idea of comparing a person reaching sixty with a country reaching sixty just does not hold up. Even if I concede the point about reaching wisdom at sixty, the comparison is not a good one as time goes on.

What happens when
Israel reaches 100 years old? I can just see the comparison - as an individual reaches the century mark they may not even remember where they put their false teeth. So when Israel reaches 100 years old – will they forget where they hid their latest nuclear weapon? It just does not work.

One final word (I promise). I was born in the same month and year as Israel. I always enjoyed the yearly announcements when Israel reached twenty years, thirty years, even fifty. It reminded me that I am the same age as Israel. But now that we are reaching sixty I am really uncomfortable. Even if I try not to dwell on my age - I have to look forward to regular reminders that Israel has reached seventy, eighty, and ninety. The only comfort is that hopefully Israel eventually will have many more birthdays than I will.

Happy birthday Israel !!!!!

Harry Perkal
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