From The Sages
Torah scholars grow wiser as they age. Boors become more stupid as they age(Shabbos 154a).
Experience is indeed a great teacher. The older we get, the wiser we
should become simply on the basis of life experiences.
However, this is not always the case. It is possible for people to reach
wrong conclusions from experience. It is much like the story of the person who trained a grasshopper to jump on command. When he cut off one leg, the jump was shortened, and it progressively decreased as he removed the other legs. When all the legs were removed, the grasshopper did not move when given the command. He concluded that if you remove all the legs from a grasshopper, it becomes deaf.
A wise person and a fool both observe the world. They both see that
there are some people who are immoral and unethical who appear to have all the good things in life. On the other hand, there are fine, pious people who live in deprivation. The wise person sees the emptiness and futility of a life whose goal is only pleasure and contentment, which is really no different than the life of any animal. He sees the character building and spiritual achievements of the moral and ethical person. The fool sees the same thing, and concludes that one may violate moral and ethical principles in order to get the most enjoyment out of life.
The older a wise person becomes, the more he appreciates the value of
spiritual life. The older a fool becomes, the more decadent he becomes.
From Our Heritage
In my yeshivah years, there was one Talmud instructor who gave a
shiur (lecture) on mussar (ethics) once a week. In the course of these sessions, he would expound on the importance of devoting all ones
time to Torah and of not tolerating idleness. He would stress the need for kavannah (concentration) in prayer. He would point out the sinfulness of
speaking or listening to lashon hara (gossip). He would cite all the
shortcomings to which a person is vulnerable, and the importance of progressing in spiritual life.
After the session was over he would go over to each student individually and say, I was merely reviewing the principles of mussar and the behavior which Torah requires. I hope you did not think I was directing any reprimand toward you. If anything I said hurt your feelings, I apologize and ask your forgiveness.
Whatever we learned from the lecture was eclipsed by the sincerity of
his profuse apologies. We learned how sensitive we must be to avoid offending anyone.