The passuk states “עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקולי וישמר משמרתי מצותי חקותי ותורותי, since Avraham listened to My voice, and he guarded My watch, My mitzvos, My statutes, and My Toros.” Rashi explains that Avraham listened to Hashem when He tested Avraham, and he kept Hashem’s mishmor; which are the decrees to distance from sin; for example, the d’Rabanans of arayos and Shabbos. Rabbeinu Bachya adds, even eiruvei tavshilim and eiruvei techumin. He kept the mitzvos which are logical to fulfill even without a command, such as not stealing or killing. And he kept the statutes that are not logical, rather a decree from the King upon his servants, such as not wearing shaatnez. And Avraham kept the Toros which refer to Torah sheb’al peh, halacha to Moshe from Sinai.
Rabbeinu Bachya says the passuk uses the lashon עקב, which equals 172. Avraham lived for a total of 175 years, yet the passuk states that he listened to Hashem and His mitzvos for only 172 years. Razal prove from here that Avraham recognized Hashem when he was 3 years old. The 3 years that he didn’t recognize Hashem are not included. This hints that the years which a person believes in Hashem and fulfills His mitzvos are counted as part of his life, and the rest not. My brother-in-law, Reb Baruch Shechter added, it states in kriyas shema, ולמדתם אתם את בניכם לדבר בם, and you shall teach your children to speak divrei Torah. Rashi explains from when a child knows how to talk, teach him תורה צוה לנו משה. From here Chazal derive that once a child knows how to speak, the father should teach him Torah, and if he does not do this, it is as though he is burying him. My Rosh HaYeshiva said over a story told about a certain town that had unusual writings on the graves. On each of the graves there was written small numbers of the person’s lifetime; this person lived 10, 15, 20, years. Almost no one was written big numbers, 80, 90, that he lived a long life. This was very strange, just about everyone in this town died so young? It became clear that the reason why it was written such small number was because the people in this city did not serve Hashem too long. True they were physically present in the world for many years, but they were missing ruchniyus and avodas Hashem. Therefore, their years were calculated based on their avodas Hashem, which was minimal.
The Rambam brings that before Avraham was born, the entire world worshiped idolatry. Once Avraham, the pillar of the world, was born, he started to think in his mind day and night about the creation. How could it be that the sun should rise and set – who moved it? He had no Rebbi to teach him, and he was drowning among all the idolaters. His parents, the entire nation, and Avraham himself worshiped idolatry. He started thinking and realizing the truth, this is one Creator of the world. He causes the constellations to move, He created everything, and there is no one else besides Him. Avraham was 40 years old when he recognized Hashem. Then he went around to answer the idolaters and argue with them to prove the truth. The Ravad disagrees, he brings b’shem Aggadah that Avraham was 3 years old when he recognized Hashem, as it states עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקולי which equals 172. The Kesef Mishnah answers for the Rambam, both are true. When Avraham was 3, he started to think and recognize Hashem, and when he was 40, he completed to recognize Him.
Let us follow Avraham, and grow in emunas Hashem and avodas Hashem, and merit long years of life.