Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
— Ecclesiastes 7:10
Who doesn’t like to take a nice stroll down memory lane every now and then? However, while it’s nice to reminisce about the “good old days,” we have to be careful not to get caught up in the past. We can enjoy the fond memories, but it’s not good if we unpack and live there. Today is the day the Lord has made; we must live in the present.
In Ecclesiastes we read, “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Some folks get stuck in the past and ask why things were so much better then. True, times were once simpler. Kids were more wholesome. The cost of living was less expensive. Music sounded like, well, music. We can go on and on. But according to King Solomon, this is not a wise way of thinking. Asking why things are worse now than they once were isn’t going to lead to anywhere good.
However, we can argue that perhaps it is a good question to ask. After all, if we can understand what allowed a better standard of living to once exist, we could potentially recreate those circumstances and regain that lost but better way of living.
Yet, King Solomon would point out the flaw and foolishness of our thinking. Our first mistake is thinking that we are able to control the way the world works. The second is in thinking we know best how the world should be conducted. In reality, God controls the world, and while we must do our part to make it better, ultimately God knows what He is doing and all is as it should be right now at this very moment.
The idea of accepting things as they are and not asking why they are that way applies both on a global level and on a personal sphere. We need to embrace what God has given us today.
Instead of asking why things are as they are, the questions we should be asking are: “how can I serve God in these circumstances?” or “what can I learn from this situation?” or “how can I make myself better or improve the world?” These are the wise questions that can lead us to practical solutions and actions.
Instead of taking a long walk down the dead end of memory lane, we are far better off walking toward the future on an unending horizon of possibilities.
Next time we find ourselves reminiscing about those “good old days,” take a moment and appreciate both the blessings and opportunities available today. God gave us the gift of this day – how we spend it is our choice.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President