Ready for this? Moses and Aaron are about to confront Pharaoh. God is instructing Moses and Aaron on what to say and do and is describing the events that are about to unfold. Exodus 7:1-13. Out of nowhere, the Torah interrupts the story to tells us that Moses was 80 and Aaron was 83. Exodus 7:7.
What does age have to do with this story and why tell us these facts here?
According to our tradition, 80 is the age of “gevurah” Pirke Avot – Ethics of the Fathers – 5:22. “Gevurah” is sometimes translated as “strength,” “power,” or “might.”
The leader of the Exodus must be someone with special attributes, but it was not necessarily someone of physical prowess. Indeed, we do not normally think of octogenarians in that way. But, what is true strength anyway?
At the age of 80 there is a strength that comes from an intellect developed and cultivated through many years of learning, reading, sharing and training others. At the age of 80, there is a strength that comes from knowing that you have contributed in ways that help make the world a better place. At 80, strength can be derived from the blessing of family and friends cultivated through years of caring and devotion. At 80 there is a power that comes from having endured struggles and challenges through life, deriving a perspective on what is truly important, what is worth fighting for and what truly matters. One commentator explained that the Gevurah at age 80 means strength of character in having lived to see that, above all, it is truth that endures and, in the case of Moses, that ability was needed to speak truth to power.
The Sefer Chumash Eitz Chayim tells us that this interruption and comment on Moses’ age reminds us of the tremendous contribution that our seniors can and do make to our society through the sharing of their wisdom and experience and their ability to take on challenges that might cause the less experienced much anxiety.
The Torah is telling us that our seniors are a tremendous resource and valuable assets in our community. The fact that Moses was 80 was, perhaps above all, a qualification for the task ahead. May we all be blessed to achieve the age of gevurah and many years beyond. May we each be a resource in and valuable assets to our own community.
This Shabbat, we are privileged to learn with Rabbi Joey Krakoff, Director of Spiritual Care at Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network. He stated, “One of the most discussed sections of the Torah centers on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Did Pharaoh harden his own heart or did God harden it? And if so, what does that do to the concept of free will? Join us Shabbat morning as we confront these important, meaningful yet ‘hard’ questions!”
Please join us at 9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.