Adam's Longevity and the Purpose of Learning
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Since youth we have read stories from Genesis, sometimes with much amazement. Of the personalities mentioned in Genesis what is striking is their longevity. Adam lived to the age of 930, and others lived until 1000 years. Most human lifespan does not exceed 100 years of age, so 1000 years seems unreal. These ages were real, however there are discussions among our Rabbis as to who lived that long aside from those named.
The Ramban's argument against the Maimonides, recorded by the Ramban in Genesis 5:4. The Ramban's reason for Adam's longevity is due to his being the "Handiwork of the Holy One". He was created in "absolute perfection as regards beauty, strength and might." The Ramban explains that because of man's sin and environmental changes after the flood and the dispersion, did man's lifespan decrease. The Ramban holds that all of mankind shared this longevity, and all mankind suffered a shorter lifespan.
The Ramban criticizes The Maimonides' opinion:
"Now what the Rabbi has written in the Moreh Nevuchim does not seem right to me, namely that the longevity was only in those individuals mentioned, while the rest of the people in those generations lived lives of ordinary natural length. He further said this exception was due to the mode of living and food of such people or by way of miracle. But these words are without substance. Why should this miracle happen to them since they were neither prophets nor righteous, nor worthy that a miracle be done for them, especially for generation after generation. And how could a proper mode of living and proper food prolong their years to the extent that they are so many times greater than that of the entire generation? It is possible that there were others who observed such a mode of living, in which case all or most of them should have attained similar longevity. And how did it happen that enough of the wisdom concerning this good mode of living did not come down to just one of all the sons of Noah after the flood (to enable him to match the longevity of his ancestors), for there was among them a little wisdom of their ancestors even though it steadily decreased from generation to generation?"
The Rabbis stated, "The purpose of learning is svara (definition)." Man finds his ultimate goal in study when he "defines" what he perceives as the complete uniqueness of a given phenomena, law or any area of knowledge. That perception of a "new" previously not encountered phenomena means we perceived something "new" and are closer to our understanding of God's wisdom.
Studying the wisdom of the universe was central to Adam's purpose and longevity. Longevity represents the amount of knowledge available to man. Man can live to 1000 years and barely scratch the surface. Perhaps this is one of the reasons man initially was blessed with such long life. To partake in the essence of study, one defines the area at hand by seeking out "svara" in the opinion of the Maimonides and Ramban. The Maimonides (Maimonides) held that only those people mentioned in Scripture enjoyed longevity. The Ramban held all men sustained such duration of life. My understanding of the verses leads me to an additional reason for man's longevity, in accordance with Maimonides' theory that only those men mentioned actually lived that long.
The verses describing the lives of Adam and about ten of his direct descendants repeatedly follow 3 verses focusing on a singular idea. An example is this verse series found in Genesis 5:6-8:
5:6 And Seth (Adam's son) lived 105 years and bore Enosh.
5:7 And Seth lived after having bore Enosh 807 years and he bore sons and daughters.
5:8 And all the days of Enosh were 912 years and he died.
(This verse series repeats for about ten more men, only their age changes with their first son's birth and their total years lived.)
In this example, it is Seth's life that is mentioned due to his involvement in procreation. We read of Seth's age at the birth of his first son, and his years during his many offspring, and finally his age at his death. What is the significance of mentioning the first child, and that it is male? I believe it teaches us that Seth desired offspring and so he procreated. The first child mentioned teaches that Seth's participation in procreation establishes the world. A male child was considered a milestone. Since the male controls life it's significant that it be mentioned. Without male participation in intercourse, there are no offspring. In the second verse with connection to Seth, he lived many years and had many offspring. Perhaps teaching the connection between lifespan and procreation. As procreation is God's will, Seth and others are granted longevity.
This theory would answer Ramban's critique of Maimonides: Maimonides thus holds that this miracle of longevity was not bestowed based on man's particular merits. Rather, God grants long life as He desires world population, and these men procreated. Procreation was their focus and we do not read about anything else in connection with the men listed here. According to Maimonides, all other members of mankind not mentioned during the beginning generations lived until 70 or 80 years.
An interesting insight into miracles is derived. Maimonides holds that God performs miracles to achieve a 'desired goal'. Although certain members of mankind benefited from this miracle of longevity, Maimonides holds that personal perfection is not necessarily a consideration when God renders miracles. What determined longevity was procreation. Ramban disagrees and says only perfected people could benefit from God's miracles. Therefore, the Ramban holds that mankind to have this longevity is due only to design. (Rashi says that initially man had 2 wives, one for procreation and one for sexual intercourse.) This teaches us that there were two distinct institutions then. Man could have selected both or one. This might corroborate Maimonides' theory that not all men merited longevity unless they selected procreation.

It was discussed that longevity contributed to man's self aggrandizement which ultimately drove him to sin against others through robbery and sexual promiscuity. By removing factors contributing to man's downfall is God's way of assisting man. Man's lifespan was decreased by God to assist man by removing man's focus on himself. His energies could be redirected towards the world of wisdom.
In summary, longevity was initially a blessing given to those who according to Maimonides procreated and according to the Ramban, those who were perfected. This also teaches that man can engage and content himself in study for many years. Since the knowledge available to man is endless even if he lived 1000 years.

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