For the week ending 8 September 2007 / 25 Elul 5767

Recipe for Long Life

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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As we approach the High Holy Days when we repent and pray that we be judged by Heaven for life and well-being in the year to come, it is a good idea to include in our "New Year's Resolutions" a greater commitment to synagogue attendance. In the August 22 issue of the Jerusalem Post there appears the following JTA report:

"A Hebrew University of Jerusalem study suggests that people who attend synagogue regularly live longer than those who do not.

Prof. Howard Litwin of the University's Israel Gerontological Data Center studied 5,000 Israelis aged 60 or older over a seven-year period.

He compared various factors influencing their longevity. His findings, published in The European Journal of Aging, showed a death rate 75 percent higher among those who did not attend synagogue regularly."

Litwin suggested several reasons: Faith may help people survive psychological pressure better; observant Jews walk to the synagogue on Shabbat, thus maintaining an exercise routine; and a supportive community helps people live longer."

All of the reasons given by Prof. Litwin for the longevity of synagogue attenders are true but he left out the most important one – the reward which Heaven grants to those who regularly come to the synagogue to pray to G-d.

The Talmud (Mesechta Berachot 8a) relates that when Rabbi Yochanan, who taught Torah in Eretz Yisrael, was told that there were Jews in Babylon who reached old age, he greeted this report with wonder. In the Torah's promise of longevity for fulfilling the mitzvot we are told that this is "in order to increase your days and the days of your children upon the Land which G-d swore to give to your ancestors" (Devarim 11:21). If long life is conditional on living in Eretz Yisrael, he asked, how can it be attained elsewhere?

Only after inquiring about the behavior of those elderly Babylonian Jews and learning that they came early to the synagogue and left late was the mystery solved. It is this merit of synagogue attendance, concluded Rabbi Yochanan, which enables them to live so long.

The synagogue attenders among those 5,000 Israelis studied by the professor have not only the merit of living in Eretz Yisrael but also that of regularly visiting the House of G-d to enable them to live longer than those who fail to take advantage of this recipe for long life.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

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