Psalm 38

For I am on the verge of collapse; my pain is always with me. (38:18)

The human body, as it ages, hurts. If we eat right, exercise properly, and a blessed with good genes, we might retain our youthful vigor longer, but inevitably, if we survive to an advanced age, we will begin to feel the aches and pains of a body whose joints, bones, and nervous system are wearing down.

The question, then, is how do we want to live our lives as our still functional body hurts us. My role models are people who accept the pain and the limitations, treat it the best they can, and continue to show up at the synagogue week after week or month after month, for services or to volunteer their time. They continue to engage in communal activities with their friends and they don’t complain (Why bother complaining? It serves no purpose! Their friends have their own set of pains to deal with, and it doesn’t stop the pain – it just makes more people miserable!)

Judaism doesn’t celebrate suffering, it doesn’t commend pain as a positive spiritual experience. The Psalmist, in fact, connected suffering with sin – God’s punishment. The Psalmist sought to relieve the suffering by identifying and correcting the sin. While I reject that particular theology, I try to embody relatively heathy habits in my life, thinking that a life connected with God and Torah, a life embodying goodness, is more likely to be a life in which happiness and satisfaction outweigh the inevitable aches and pains.

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