NOTE: For a PDF copy of this segment, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 1]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 10-27 (Longevity)
Although everyone wants to live a long life, nobody can be sure how to increase their own life span, or even to know how much time they have left. These things are determined by the Creator Who gave us life and Who will ultimately bring it to an end for reasons that we cannot know.
However, this proverb reminds us that there are things we can do to promote a longer life. These are based on having an attitude of yiras Hashem (fear of Hashem), which means being consciously aware of His presence in our lives at all times.
Having yiras Hashem leads a person to act and think in a way that pleases the Creator. By demonstrating to Him that he is making proper use of his life, he is giving Him a reason to want to extend it.
(כז) יִרְאַת ה’ תּוֹסִיף יָמִים וּשְׁנוֹת רְשָׁעִים תִּקְצֹרְנָה:
(27) The fear of Hashem prolongs the days of life, but the years of resha’im are shortened..
The proverb contrasts the longevity of a tzaddik (righteous person having yiras Hashem) with that of resha’im (wicked people) whose attitude towards life is oriented to pleasing themselves rather than concern for the wishes of their Creator.
The longevity of the tzaddik is measured in days because the tzaddik views each new day as a thing in itself, an opportunity to serve Hashem. At the end of each day he looks back to see if he has done the will of Hashem on that day. If so, he can feel fulfilled.
For the resha’im, one day is not that meaningful and can be idled away without a second thought. Thus, they can only measure their life in terms of years, such as the years it will take to acquire wealth and power.
(כז) יִרְאַת ה’ תּוֹסִיף יָמִים
וּשְׁנוֹת רְשָׁעִים תִּקְצֹרְנָה:
The fear of Hashem will prolong the tzaddik’s life, as measured by an increased number of days — יִרְאַת ה’ תּוֹסִיף יָמִים and by the value of each day. But the years of the reshaim will be shortened — וּשְׁנוֹת רְשָׁעִים תִּקְצֹרְנָה , as measaured by a reduced number of years, each of which is of lesser value.
(1) The natural life of a person begins life with an allotment of days that he has to live. That number rises and falls throughout his life, based on natural laws. These laws respond to his behavior. The tzaddik’s life is extended if his thoughts and deeds warrant it. (Ibn Ezra)
(2) By nature, people who are anxious and worried lose strength and are subject to early death. But the concern that a person has about his sins and his inadequacies in serving Hashem do not have this erffect, rather the opposite. (Rabbeinu Yona, Hagra).
(3) The life of the tzaddik is measured in days, which are days of peace and serenity. His faithful compliance with Hashem’s mitzvos, can be successfully accomplished on each and every day. Each day that has been lived through in faithful observance of the Torah is a gain, a profit for him. (Malbim, RSRH)
(4) By definition, the life of the tzaddik is prolonged because every minute is valuablec to him and so he doesn’t waste it. (Daas Soferim
(5) The years available to the resha’im are are automatically reduced according to natural laws that are built into Creation to take accounting of sin. Thus, they will die sooner because of failure to fear Hashem. (Ibn Ezra) .
(6). By nature, pleasure in life should add to longevity. However, the longevity of resha’im is reduced as a result of their behavior in the course of satisfying their desires. (Rabbeinu Yona, Metrzudos)
(7) The life of the resha’im is measured in years and yearly periods are typically periods of distress. The resha’im are greedy and have long-term plans to acquire wealth and power. There is never enough time to do everything they want. (Malbim, RSRH)
(8) The life of the resha’im is shortened because they wastes it on idle self-destructive pastimes. (Daas Soferim)
The primary sources used for the insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) -אבן עזרא
(2) – רבינו יונה, הגר”א
(3) – מלבי”ם, רשר”ה
(4) – דעת סופרים
(5) – אבן עזרא
(6) – רבינו יונה, מצודות
(7) – מלבי”ם, רשר”ה
(8) – דעת סופרים