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G-d’s Waiting Room
“When you shall come to the Land and you shall plant any food tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden to you.” (19:23)
With macabre humor, Miami Beach is called “G-ds waiting room” because it abounds with retirement homes and hotels for the elderly.
Retirement is a western concept, and one that has come under criticism from doctors in recent years. Studies have found that people who don’t retire but stay involved in their work (albeit at a level that befits their age) have longer life expectancies than those who retire and relax into their “golden years.”
My father, of blessed memory, who passed away well into his ninety-third year, was a person who worked hard throughout his life and never retired. Every morning he would still go into the office and do his work. He went in later and came back earlier, but he still kept his life’s routine.
Our Sages teach that G-d conceals our time of death from us so that we should remain active to the last.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian was once passing through the city of Tiberias in Eretz Yisrael. He noticed an elderly man exerting himself, tilling the soil around his fig trees.
“Saba! (Grandfather) Saba!” called out Hadrian, “Why are you working so hard? When you were young you had to toil to make a living, but now its time to relax. Anyway, you will never live to enjoy the fruits of your labors.”
The old man replied, “My task is to try and accomplish whatever my age allows. The Almighty will do as He sees fit.”
“Tell me, please, Saba, how old are you?”
“I am a hundred years old.”
“A hundred years old! And you actually expect to reap what you sow?”
“I if merit to eat the fruit of my labors, well and good; and if not, my efforts will benefit my children just as I have benefited from the toil of my forebears.”
Said Hadrian,”Hear me Saba! If you ever eat these figs that you are planting, you must surely come and let me know.”
In due course, the figs ripened and abounded with fruits. The old man thought to himself, “I must go and tell the emperor.”
He filled a basket with figs and traveled to the palace.
“The Emperor wishes to see me,” he announced to the guards, and they led him before the Hadrian’s throne.
“Who are you?” asked Hadrian.
“Does the emperor remember years ago in Tiberias, passing by an old man tending his figs? G-d has granted me to eat of those figs that I planted. I have brought the emperor a basketful as a gift.”
Hadrian turned to his servants. “Take the figs from this elderly man and refill his basket with gold coins.”
His courtiers questioned the emperors generosity, “Why such a lavish gift for an old Jew?” Hadrian replied to them, “His Creator honored him with longevity — is it not proper that I too should accord him honor?”
The Creator does not want us to sit and read the newspapers in G-d’s waiting room.
- Source: Vayikra Rabba 25:5