Ask the Rabbi: ‘I’m 40 and fear my life is over’

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Ask the Rabbi: ‘I’m 40 and fear my life is over’

With rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

Ask the Rabbi

I’m 40 and fear my life is over

Dear Rabbi,

I go about my daily routines and make enough money to get by, but lately I feel listless and restless. I’m married with three grow-up children who are the lights of my life. But these days it is almost as if I hate going into the office and come home feeling really miserable. I have all kinds of negative thoughts and wonder… is this is just life? Is this is who I am?  This is my fate?

At 40 I wish I could have been more successful and have had a better life. My mood is starting to impact on my family life. How can I start to get these emotions in check?


Dear Josh,

Forgive me for reading between the lines, but I cannot help notice your glowing reference to your three children who are “the lights of your life”– but scant reference to your marriage.

You don’t even mention your wife, let alone that she too is the light of your life – not even that you are happily married – just a statement of fact: “I am married.”

That is worrying in itself and maybe where you should look in the first instance if you are trying to sort out your happiness.

If there are deep-seated issues which you are overlooking, maybe you need to address them together or seek professional guidance. But more than anything, you seem to think emotions are simply what you feel. People do tend to think that we don’t choose our likes and dislikes, our resentments and joys.

They catch us and hold us helpless in their grip. So we conclude that we can’t help feeling what we feel, and that we are at the mercy of external events. But the fact is that what we feel is largely determined by what we think, how we interpret life events, and how we react to them – this is something that is completely under our control.

This doesn’t mean that we have to change our thinking so much that we distort reality. We don’t deny events.

Rather, we choose the most positive path within the spectrum of responsible reactions. You say you wish you could have been more successful. Consider this. A young couple went shopping together in Costco.

After an hour she finds him in the drinks section holding a case of beer: “What are you doing?” He replies, “Well it’s on special – 24 bottles for only £10!” She looks to him: “You don’t need it and we can’t afford that luxury right now.”

Later he finds her in the beauty department holding a tub of deluxe skin cream: “What are you doing?” “It’s a great cream, it’s only £20, and it makes me look beautiful.”

He looks to her, takes the cream from her hands and says: “Yeah, so does a case of beer, and it’s half the price!” People go to great lengths to look beautiful but, Josh, money isn’t going to buy you happiness.

You can’t manufacture a genuine feel-good factor.

To truly feel good you need to be in the right frame of mind.

To be beautiful means to be yourself; you don’t need to be accepted by others. 

You have to accept yourself. 

To be yourself means to discover the real you; who you are; what your represent to others and to the world.

To accept yourself means to be aware of your strong points.

Concentrate on your strengths and high ground which will enable you to emerge and be as great as you can be.

Wishing you inner peace.

Don’t be shy of pursuing counselling and hopefully in time you will write to me again saying you’ve discovered the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

A fine wine – that’s hit 50!

Dear Rabbi I have heard through the grapevine that you’re about to celebrate five decades! [It’s in your synagogue newsletter and website]. I just wanted to wish you mazeltov. Keep up your good work. Having read your column for the last decade or more, you are like fine wine – better with age!


Dear Annette,

Yes, my wife thinks so too!

My mother-in-law is not convinced.

Thank you for your kind wishes, but let me say this. “Age is a matter of the mind: If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” The number on our passport is an irrelevance. It’s your attitude to life and your readiness to stay young at heart that is essential.

Remember, when it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day! If that doesn’t work then there’s always this wonderful quote from Lucielle Ball: “The key to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.”

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