Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016--Bar Mitzvah Boy

I'm taking a day off from Trump-Clinton 24/7.

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Even casual readers of Behind know my mother died last year at 107 plus three days. I am sure I am deluding myself when I think I can equal or outdo that. But 110 or more feels within reach.

I know . . .

But, when I read that Yisrael Kristal waited 100 years before being bar mitvahed at 113, since I also have not been ritualistically admitted to the Jewish version of adulthood (that lack I have been told is obvious), I thought there was no rush to find a rabbi willing to take on someone incorrigibly like me if I want to fill that gap in my Jewish resumé.

But then I read, also in the New York Times, that new studies of aging are coming to conclude that 115 years is looking like the ceiling for human life expectancy. Some, including me, have been thinking that with modern medicine there is no limit to how old we can get. What kind of life one would have at 130 is another matter.

A little thrown off my pins by these findings, I did a little quick calculating and, considering my age, I thought I had better get on with my Torah training if I want to be alive for the blessed event. I also thought to turn to Mr. Kristal's life story to guide me.

His life turns out to be so unique, so incredible that I can barely find anything specific to steer me but inspiration.

At 113, the world's oldest man according to the Guiness Book of World Records, he was born in 1903 in the small Polish village of Malenie--as it turns out not far from where my mother was born just five years later. Since World War I was raging when he was 13 he could not be Bar Mitzvahed at the traditional age.

After the war, with an uncle, he moved to Lodz and opened a candy store. In 1939 Lodz was overrun by the Nazis and his wife and two small children were killed. Five years later, with his second wife he was sent to Auschwitz and somehow managed to survive, the only member of his extended family to do so. When the camp was liberated he weighed just 82 pounds.

He emigrated to Israel, married, and raised another family. He now has two surviving children, nine grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren. Most of them were at his Bar Mitzvah. He is reported by them to retain most of his capacities.

Looking around at the family who gathered for his bar mitzvah, one of his granddaughters said, "All these people from one person. Imagine how many rooms could be filled if six million had lived."

His daughter, Kristal Kuperstoch say her father has prayed every morning for the past 100 years and attributed his longevity to that and his diet--he eats modestly but when he does, almost every day, he has a helping of pickled herring. Until his late 80s he also had a taste for wine and beer.

The herring and beer sound pretty good to me.

Bar Mitzvah Boy Yisrael Kristal

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