I see you like through a shadow. And there is always a big noise in my ears. Maybe you know somebody who can do something to stop it?"

Jacob Levin, peering up from the wheelchair, offered a meaty hand in greeting. In his room at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, he gave the impression of a muscular will shoring up a sagging frame. He was planning to mark his 103rd birthday July 3.

"I was well off until I was 100 years old, or maybe the year before that," he said. "You should have come five years ago. Then I was very happy with my long life; I did not have anything to complain about with my health."

Born in 1880, in a Russian shtetl, Levin left his homeland at age 22--a fugitive after he made an anti-Czarist speech--and spent most of his subsequent life on the American Plains. He was seven years a homesteader in Nebraska, making spurs for cowboys passing through on cattle runs, and amassed 17 horses and 70 head of cattle. For the next half-century until 1969, he worked his own 80-acre farm in Michigan.

By now he has outlived two wives and a son. A daughter is still living in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"It's very exhausting when I visit my father," said Edith Levin, a retired high school administrator. "He still thinks I'm a kid of 16, and he wants me to get him this or carry that. But it's hard on me. After all, I'm 78 years old."

A dozen mosaics brightened Levin's otherwise Spar- tan room. He proudly pointed out these wall hangings, which he made in the last few years. "I can't see them any more," Levin lamented.

"I don't know why I have lived so long. Someone once said, 'We are not making history; history makes us.' Young and old, we can't say that we are here on this earth doing so and so and so, and this is why we are here. It's not for us to decide whether we should live or not, or who should live longer. Maybe you will go first--before me. In my estimation, it's a question for scientific research . . . I know I lived enough. But I want to live more. This is what I want."