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R'Ay - Growing Older & Sweeter

08/17/12 16:07:49


The idiom "growing to a ripe old age" is becoming increasingly more significant to me. While some might say that I'm too young to make this statement, but the truth is I didn't say that I am grown completely, rather the intent is on the 'growing' aspect. Growing old is a process which really does take a lifetime. What exactly is the blessing and meaning of a ripe old age? Why is 'ripening' used to express the process of aging?

As many of you know, one of my favorite challenges is making fruit platters. The art of making a beautiful platter is dependent on the utensils used in preparing the fruit and the fruit itself. If the fruit is overripe, it is too soft and doesn't stand on its own. If the fruit is under- ripe, the pieces will be hard but not sweet. There is a skill in knowing at what point a fruit is ripe. Unfortunately, most people need to cut open the fruit in order to make that determination. Once it's cut it open, however, if it's not ripe it can't simply be glued back together to continue the ripening process.

As it ripens, the thick, hard skin begins to soften, becoming thinner. The softer and thinner the peel or skin becomes, the sweeter the fruit is. This process of ripening is identical to the process of aging for most human beings. When we are young we tend to have a tough exterior and are not very flexible. Some interpret this as being tough and harsh, perhaps even bitter regarding certain circumstances in life. But as we age there is a tendency to mellow out and become a little softer on issues. Life seems to take on a sweeter taste. Our bodies are similar to the skin of the fruit. We are small and tender when young, slowly developing a thick skin. This protective covering becomes softer as we age. With fruit, the key is to make sure it's eaten before it too with people. We need to be aware of the beauty of our inner growth. A person should be only sweet and not become rotten.

This week's Parsha R'Ay begins "R'Ay Anochi Nosein Lifneichem Bracha U'klala" - " Behold I have placed before you a blessing and a curse". The traditional or standard approach to this passuk is we have a choice to be blessed in this world or to be cursed. If we follow the Torah and perform the Mitzvos, essentially choosing life, then that is a bracha, a blessing. If we choose to ignore the teachings of the Torah, then we are essentially choosing death, which is the ultimate curse.

The end of R'Ay also mentions a Bracha of sorts. The last verse teaches that every person should give (charity) according to the blessing that Hashem has blessed them with. "K'Birkas Hashem Elokecha Asher Nossan Lecha....". " If Hashem gives a person the wherewithal to give tzedaka and the person chooses not to do so, then he will have been living a cursed life. But if a person gives according to the blessings which God has given them, then their giving is a true blessing. Their lives have been blessed because they know how to appropriately deal with the blessing they have received.

I would like to suggest the Bracha/Klala vision is also related to our personal outlook in life. We have a choice of viewing events and situations in life for good or for bad, to see events as positive or negative, as bitter or sweet. The blessing to us depends on how we interpret and understand something in life. If we merit to see things in the correct perspective it will be a bracha; if not it will be a curse. The ability to achieve this requires time and aging. We all begin by being tough and harsh and if we remain this way then we live a cursed life. On the other hand, if we are able change that affect and take a softer, less harsh look at a situation and kinder, more caring attitude towards people then our lives will become much sweeter. If we are able to accomplish this, then the beginning stages of having a hard peel will retroactively be looked upon as sweet because that is the necessary progression of a fruit and of life. The sweetness of a fruit can only be tasted at the very end of the ripening stages. So too in a humans life, the sweetness can only be determined at the very end of life.

The Torah outlook on the meaning of "living to a ripe old age" is learning the process by which the sweetness of life comes to be. It is NOT just living to an old age, for some people do and are as grouchy and mean the day they die as they were years ago when they were younger.

Sadly, there are times a fruit never does ripen. So too, there are people who never ripen, remaining hard and difficult throughout their entire lives these people live a life of bitterness instead of sweetness. The remarkable aspect of the fruit is that as it ripens, the peel itself becomes more flesh of the fruit. The hard peel turns into the meat of the fruit. Our challenge is to transform some of that tough exterior and soften it up and make it part of our internal essence. Everyone deep down wants to be caring and sweet, it just takes time to convert that change, morphing it into sweetness.

The word R'Ay, " to see".should be the first instruction to us this week. I pray that we each appreciate our own ability to change our lives and see it as a blessing, tasting the sweet delicious fruit of life

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky
Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780