The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Proverbs 10:27
How do you measure a life? Do we count by days or by years? Does it matter?
According to a teaching in Proverbs, the answer is yes. We read, "The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short." In the original Hebrew, the verse literally reads, "The fear of the Lord prolongs days . . ." The Jewish sages connect the righteous with living in terms of days and the wicked as living according to years.
What's the difference between living days and living years?
God-fearing people live for the sake of spiritual achievements. This is something that can be accomplished every day. We can pray every day. We can have patience every day. We can perform acts of kindness on any given day. When our life's goal is to do good and be good, every day counts. Our lives are full of meaningful days that have eternal significance.
This is what it means to live according to our days; we make every day count with acts that truly matter. Echoing this idea, the psalmist prayed in Psalms 90:12, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." When we learn to measure our lives by our days, we gain a heart of wisdom and know how to live life to the fullest.
In contrast, others choose to live their lives according to years. These are people whose goals in life are purely material. Material aspirations can't be achieved overnight. It takes many days, sometimes many years, to reach a material goal. In the process, the days are not meaningful in themselves; rather, they are mere stepping stones toward the greater goal that often takes years to reach.
Some years are "good" years financially, and other years are "bad" years. And there are never enough years to reach all our material goals. The sages teach that no one leaves this world with even half of his heart's desires met. This is what the verse means when it says that "the years of the wicked are cut short"; there are never enough years for those who strive only for material success.
Let's measure our lives in terms of days instead of years. When we number by days, every day is meaningful. When we judge by years, some days are irrelevant. When we live for this very day, we are always at rest. When we live for the sake of the year, we are often restless. When we pass through each day focused only on a more comfortable future, we lose those days forever. But when we make every day count, our lives are eternally significant.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President