Sam reads a factoid in the paper - "Life expectancy at the end of the 20th century is approaching 2,525,000,000 seconds."
Sam reads a factoid in the paper - "Life expectancy at the end of the 20th century is approaching 2,525,000,000 seconds." Surprised by the large number, he pulls out his calculator and discovers that the number converts to about 700,000 hours. He touches a few more buttons - 29,000 days. . .less than 1000 months. One step further and the number glares at him from the screen - 80 years.
Later that day, while studying the description in this week's Torah portion of the Yovel (Jubilee) year, his eyes rest on a peculiar verse: "You shall count for yourselves seven cycles of sabbatical (Shemittah) years, seven years seven times; the years of the seven cycles of sabbatical years shall be for you forty-nine years" (Leviticus 25:8). Why the redundancy, Sam wonders? Can't we figure out the number of years and Shemittah cycles in Yovel on our own?
With the stroke of a few more keys on his calculator, Sam finds that 80 years can be further reduced to less than twelve sabbatical cycles, during which time no more than two Yovel years will pass. Life is indeed fleeting. After all, how long are we in this world? What will remain of our lives when our time comes?
Sam thinks for a moment and then flips to the book of Deuteronomy (30:15-19), where the following famous passage takes on new meaning: "See - I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil; that which I command you today, to love Hashem your G-d, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments, His decrees, and His ordinances; then you will live. . .and you shall choose life!" Through Torah we can achieve eternity. L'chaim, to life!
Michael Alterman, who hails from Atlanta, is a student at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Johns Hopkins University.
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