commentaries of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch on this one sentence
are quite extensive. I
will a couple of salient points.
The introductory sentence contains the summary of
the life of Avraham. His
life's work was finished, he had nothing more to strive for
and to achieve, his one worry would be concerning his son and
the household he would leave behind him.
The Hebrew word used here is zaken, which
means mature experience and is differentiated from the other
term for age, yashan meaning "to sleep,"
designating worn out energies, becoming sleepy or dull,
darkness. But zaken
designates what has been gained in the achievement of life's
work, the maturity of the personality.
The words of our sages suggests that Avraham has
conquered both worlds - this one and the next, and declares,
"one hour of moral spiritual progress and doing good
deeds in this world surpasses the whole of the future life in
Paradise," although it adds that "one hour of the
quiet spiritual satisfaction of the next life is worth more
than the whole of this life." To it (Jewish wisdom) zaken denotes one who, with his
life down here, has acquired both these worlds, this one for
the next, by the stamp of godliness which he has impressed on
earthly life - "the righteous ones prepare the world to
be the home of the Divine."
Thus, according to the same point of view, Avraham
had gone through both, the earthly and the godly, material and
spiritual; all the days of his life were for him a straight
open road leading to the next world.
He was not overcome by his years, he strode through the
days, each one was a milestone marketing progress on his path
through life towards his final home.
If we understand these words rightly, they mean to
say that Avraham's happiness was due to the fact that God
blessed him in and with everything.
A man can be blessed with all prosperity, can be given
everything, and still he, in himself, can remain unhappy.
Everything that he has prospered, but he himself is not
happy, does not "grow," does not blossom internally.
But Avraham did feel himself blessed, and
"blossomed" through all his blessings.
this point, Rav Hirsch draws a parallel between Avraham Avinu
(our Father Avraham) and Yaakov Avinu (our Father Jacob).
However, prior to moving on to that point, I would like
to call your attention to the last three sentences.
Notice how happiness is tied to growth and blossoming
as a person. Clearly,
these things relate to our finding our highest selves which
leads to internal and lasting happiness.
The highest blessing, and at the same time one that
can be obtained in every station of life is Yaakov's, "He
has everything because he wants nothing more than what he has. Because altogether what he wants to do, not to have.
Thus, even in most the depressing times that Yaakov
lived through (throughout his life he had troubles with Esav,
Laban, the loss of Rachel, loss of Yosef, loss of Shimon, and
finally the worry over Benyamin), he is content and finds
happy satisfaction with life.
seems that there are a great many lessons to consider within
these particular commentaries.
It should be noted that I have quoted approximately
one-third of the complete text - there is indeed far more.
These essential points of the value of good deeds in
this life and what they can be compared to, and what appears
to be the formula for finding true happiness, provide a great
deal of flavor and essence from which to consider and draw our
own conclusions for how to live and experience a more