To Live Forever: Chapter 5| March 21, 2023
“Don’t you realize where this story ends? How many kings have gone to sleep in their beds, content with knowing that the next day is guaranteed?"
Armed with the stargazer’s maps and directions (not to mention his dire warnings about the danger of undertaking such a trip), they felt as ready as they were ever going to be.
One afternoon, the sun shining upon their heads, they headed out into the vast, seemingly endless sea. On their massive ship were enough heavily armed men to comprise a small army, and enough food and supplies to last them over a year. The journey to the Fountain of Youth had begun.
Almost immediately, as in so many adventures like this one, the sea proved to be extremely difficult. Waves larger than any of them had ever beheld threatened to wash everyone overboard. The skies seemed perpetually dark and stormy, and huge lightning bolts made even the bravest man’s heart beat wildly.
For the king it was especially difficult. Even all the royal accommodations were not enough to quell the discomfort of being at sea on a ship missing all the modern technologies we take for granted nowadays. His bed was comfortable, true, but the constant tossing of the ship upon the monstrous waves made him horribly seasick. Several times throughout the first night, as the winds picked up and the rain fell hardest, the ship spun so sharply the king was flung from his bed.
He rolled across the floor, his blankets tangled all around him as he slammed into the cabin wall. Then the ship was struck by waves from the other side, sending him flying in the opposite direction, right back into his bed….
The door to the king’s cabin burst open and his general stumbled inside. His hands grasped at the walls as he tried to steady himself.
“Your Majesty! Are you all right!”
The ship shuddered as the waves hit it. The general was lifted off his feet, and he landed hard on the king’s bed, splintering the wooden frame.
Finally, with a groan that seemed to echo across the dark ocean, the ship stopped spinning. The general looked down at the king. He was still on the floor, sweaty-faced and looking sick enough to faint.
“Worth it?” the general asked, rolling cautiously to his feet.
“Of course.” The king stood up and then stumbled against the wall as he lost his balance. “Don’t you realize where this story ends? How many kings have gone to sleep in their beds, content with knowing that the next day is guaranteed? I have seen the Jewish texts… It is even brought down that whoever consumes these waters, even fire and sword cannot take their lives! After we get to the Fountain, I will sleep every night secure in the knowledge that tomorrow the sun shall rise for me. I will enjoy this beautiful world forever.” The king held back the tears that had begun to spring to his eyes. “Endless sunrises, endless sunsets. Forever to explore this planet, to fill my mind with the knowledge of G-d, the great wisdom found everywhere, among all different types of people. Forever to witness my offspring flourishing upon the earth, helping them prosper, teaching them the correct path in life. The blessing will be endless. What more could any man ask for?”
“Forever…” the general whispered, his eyes misting over. “It — it truly is a concept I find difficult to wrap my mind around. But it sounds… wonderful.”
“Of course, it is.” The king took a deep breath, and some color returned to his white cheeks. “But first, get my bed fixed.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Mr. Silver began to shudder.
“Zeidy, are you all right?” Moshe asked in concern.
They were sitting outside the nursing home, Mr. Silver in his wheelchair, the boys on a bench.
“Yes, I’m just a bit cold.”
“Here.” Moshe took the quilt from the basket of the wheelchair and lay it over his grandfather’s shoulders.
“Thank you, Moshe Eliyahu,” Mr. Silver said. A group of children playing tag ran past. “Ah, to be young again.” Mr. Silver smiled.
“Zeidy, do you miss being a child?”
“I miss the energy I once had. It’s a brachah to move around without your joints hurting. To jump! To run! Ah! What a gift! Everyone’s bodies slow down as we age. You can dye your white hair dark, you can dress trendy, but you cannot change the reality Hashem has created. The body grows old, and that cannot change.”
“But for the king it will change, won’t it? He’ll live forever. If sword and fire cannot kill him, then surely old age won’t affect his body.”
“Would you drink from the Fountain if you could?” Aryeh asked. “Wouldn’t you want to never die, Mr. Silver?”
“First, I would want to truly live.”
“What does that mean? You are alive!”
“If you mean breathing and moving, so is that squirrel. That’s nothing to be proud about.” Mr. Silver pointed to the squirrel burrowing underneath a nearby tree, searching for a place to hide the acorn in its jaws. “I mean really living. Chazal tell us that the Torah is Toras Chaim, a living Torah. It’s the heart of creation, what truly pumps purpose and life force into all created things. Chazal tell us that Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish people are all one. When a Jew is living a life in accordance with Hashem’s will, following the directions of the Torah, then they are truly alive. Someone who lives without following Hashem’s will, without the guidelines of the Torah, they are no different from someone hooked up to a life-support system, alive in the most basic physical sense, but not really.”
Mr. Silver smiled, though his eyes were serious.
“So tell me boys, what is more concerning: to triumph over and escape death, or to discover and experience true life?
“To live a life worth living, a Torah life,” the boys answered.
Satisfied, Mr. Silver cleared his throat. “Good. And never stop reminding yourself of this. Now, where was I? Ah, yes. And so, at long last, the island of the Fountain of Youth finally came into view….”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 954)
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