Many happy returns of the day. Happy birthday. Ad meah-ve’esrim (till 120). All lovely birthday greetings. But how about something a little bit more creative?
Let’s learn from King Solomon. There is a tradition that Shlomo wrote three books of the bible: Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Mishlei (Proverbs), and Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs). In a midrashic work, Shir Hashirim Raba 1:10, R. Yonatan “argues from the ways of the world. When a man is young he composes songs; when he grows older he expresses strong opinions about what people should and should not do [mashalot in the original]; when he becomes an old man he speaks of the vanity of things.” I find this charming and can clearly see the young Solomon desperately in love, feverishly writing the love letters that become Shir Hashirim. I see the middle-aged Solomon taking himself perhaps a touch too seriously telling parables, and finally the old man looking back and realizing what was important and what was not.
Charming – yes. True – of that I am not so sure. I know lots of cynical youngsters, lots of older people who have never lost their zest and enthusiasm and middle aged people who fit into all three categories. Could it be that at each stage in our life we need all three?
Regardless of our age, we need zest and enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and the ability to look to the future with joy. Without these our lives are sad, without hope and lacking creativity. At all stages, we need to be serious. This enables us to understand that there are right ways to behave and that we are not the first people in history. There is wisdom of the ages that we can learn from. This prevents us from being rudderless and compass-less. And we need a dash of cynicism, too, in order to make sure we are grounded in reality and understand issues in context.
And so, my birthday wish to people of any age is for a year of zest and enthusiasm, wisdom and understanding, and reflection and insight. Yom huledet sameach. Have a great year.
Pardes360 is a series of responses to world current events by Pardes faculty in 360 words (or sometimes a few more). The views expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not reflect an institutional stance. To read other Pardes360 articles, click here.