In this week's Parsha we find a very interesting verse: "And Avraham was old, well along in his days." This description of our Forefather Avraham sounds almost derogatory. How can the Torah call Avraham an "old man"?
We find in the Gemarah Bava Metziah, that until Avraham, the concept of aging did not exist. The Maharsha explains that although people grew older in years, there were no physical signs of aging such as hair turning white. This posed a problem for Avraham. Since he and his son Yitzchok greatly resembled each other, people would confuse them. Therefore Avraham prayed to Hashem to make him look older so that people could tell them apart.
This is surprising! Who among us wouldn't want to look young our whole lives? In today's society, youthful appearance is prized and sought after. Whole industries thrive on this ambition. Why would Avraham want to bring old age upon humanity?
To really understand this, we must first properly understand the tendency among us to glorify youth. Being young is all about potential. A young person has their whole life ahead to accomplish whatever they choose. The elderly, who have lived out most of their life, don't have so much time left or the strength they once had. Elders may look back with regret on the way they lived and think about what could have been. There could be an element of envy of the young and a strong desire to reverse the clock.
This is true mainly if a person has not lived his life to the fullest, and hasn't become the great person God intended him to be. Avraham Avinu, however, was a great Tzaddik - every day was used to grow and perfect himself, to grow closer to his Creator. Every minute was seen as an opportunity for growth, to build on his accomplishments and climb ever higher on the spiritual ladder.
When life is lived in this manner, old age is not an empty time full of regrets. To the contrary, it is glorious, a time to look back on a life well lived, and say, "Look at what I've been able to accomplish. Look at what I have been able to become!" There are no doubts, only the satisfaction of knowing you have fulfilled the purpose of life.
Further, R' Shimshon Pinkus explains, every day a person ages, his avodah is that much greater because he is building on the previous day of growth. When Avraham was 100+ years old, his prayer was an act perfected over a century. Every act of kindness and Torah learning was a culmination of over a hundred years of growth and character perfection. Of this Avraham was proud. Growing old was nothing to run away from, but rather, a badge of honor that marked his many accomplishments. Avraham appreciated that he had used all the life that was now behind him to get where he was that day.
May we all merit to make the most out of each and every day, so that we may grow older with no regrets, and have the satisfaction of knowing that we are living life to its fullest.