VaYeshev: Get Up, You Lazy Fellow!

This week’s Torah portion introduces the dark chapter of Yoseph’s (Joseph’s) kidnapping and descent to Egyptian slavery, the ripping away of Yaakov’s (Jacob’s) most beloved son from him. This final tragedy in Yaakov’s life surpassed even all those he had already undergone (see last week’s post on VaYishlach). Why did Yaakov incur such harsh circumstances in his life? The opening verse of VaYeshev offers a clue. “And Yaakov dwelt in the land of his fathers’ sojournings” (Genesis 32:1). The verbs “to dwell” and “to sojourn” represent opposite modes of living. A sojourner seeks only to stay for a short time, viewing life as a journey with stops along the way. “To dwell,” however, indicates long-term residence, a degree of permanence. By contrasting Yaakov’s lifestyle with that of his fathers, the Torah highlights a point brought out by our sages of blessed memory in their teaching: “Yaakov sought to live in serenity.” Hashem (God) did not put us in this world to sit around comfortably, rather that we should continually perform positive acts that improve ourselves and the world around us. While Abraham and Isaac never relented in this mission, the Torah records that Yaakov lapsed and therefore incurred tribulations that forced him out of his comfort zone. If the Torah could pronounce such a criticism against the spiritual giant that merited to sire the Chosen Nation, whose twelve sons all became patriarchs of their own tribes, the thought of our own shortcomings in comparison boggles the mind. We live in a culture that venerates material comfort as the highest ideal, yet we study a Godly Torah that teaches exactly the opposite — positive growth comes through struggle. Let us push ourselves a bit beyond our comfort zones and achieve more of the greatness God has intended for us.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas VaYishlach

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