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Retirement is a Great Test

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“The Lord said to Moses, Behold! I am going to rain down for you bread from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather what is needed for the day, so that I can test them, whether or not they will follow My teaching.” (Exodus 16:4)

The Torah describes the heavenly bread (Manna) as a test for the nation. A test, by definition, implies a level of difficulty and challenge. Surely, if we were all privileged enough to have the luxury of not having to work for a living, that would be a blessing. Where is the test? Where is the challenge?

The Chizkuni (Rabbi Chizkiya ben Manoach, France, mid-thirteenth century) answers this question by stating: “I will test them to see whether they will preoccupy themselves with the study of the Torah. Since I provide them with ready food without [their investing] any toil or effort, they should therefore constantly deal with the study of Torah.”

When one is occupied in the pursuit of one’s livelihood, one naturally has less time to involve oneself in spiritual matters. However, when one is free from the burden of earning a living, time becomes a readily available commodity. This is the time that tests us. How will we use our time? Will we spend all of our time chit-chatting about insignificant matters? Will we spend our free time viewing every Netflix series? Will we spend our time following every news story? Or will we spend a significant amount of time involved in character development, Torah study, and performing acts of kindness?

Retirement from having to earn a living is certainly not antithetical to Torah values, but retirement from spiritual growth, Torah study, and the performance of Mitzvot is inconsistent with Torah values.

While this test is blatantly obvious in the case of a retired person, it is equally applicable to everyone. Working people often have some free time and, in general, we make time for the things we feel are most important. Let us all commit ourselves to pass the retirement test by extricating ourselves from spiritual retirement and rejoining God’s army with renewed vigor!