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The Torah Says I Should Retire Early – a poem for Behaalotecha

[additional-authors]
June 11, 2020

From the age of fifty he shall retire from the work legion,
and do no more work.

I don’t want to give away my age because
then you’ll stop reading. Let’s pretend I’m still 25
and will always be 25. (or 35 if that’s more your style.
Let’s pretend I have all the gumption and
invulnerability of youth. Let’s acknowledge that
I will probably never succumb to the sicknesses
of aging and that, furthermore, I will live forever.
With me so far? Okay, for the sake of responding
to this text, let’s say I’m two years past fifty
when the Torah clearly and unequivocally
tells me that I should have stopped working
two years ago. Can I pass this information
on to my employers? Is this the same thing as
a doctor’s note? Will my paychecks keep coming
or will the riches of retirement start directly
depositing where they should go? It’s not that
I’m anywhere near fifty-two – It’s like a club
up in this domestic situation. We’re quarantining
like we don’t just don’t care. We’re on all the socials.
We have Tik-Tok for breakfast. Plus we sleep through
breakfast…that’s how young we are. – But if I was
surely my responsibility to do anymore work left
the building when that fifth decade had its launch party.
I should be permanently self-quarantined in Hawaii
(If that were the case.) I should be reading magazines
and taking up new hobbies. (Do they still make magazines?)
I should be having colonoscopies every day.
(I mean to keep up appearances since I am forever in
permanent, perfect, biological and physical condition.)
I should be digging into my retirement savings.
(You can’t imagine how much they pay poets.)
Oh when I (some day) reach fifty, which I definitely
have not already done, I shall do no more work.
This is what the sages have taught me.
This is the wisdom from Sinai.
And who am I to disobey?


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 23 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Hunka Hunka Howdee!” (Poems written in Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville – Ain’t Got No Press, May 2019) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

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