Of all the Avos, our forefathers, Yaakov’s life is the most turbulent.
He has a whole squabble with his brother, who sets out to kill him in last week’s Parsha; major trouble with his father-in-law; his beloved wife Rachel dies in childbirth. And we haven’t even gotten to this week’s Parsha, where the Torah goes into one of its longest and most wrenching narratives, the story of Yaakov’s sons, Yosef and his brothers. Talk about drama.
The opening verses of Parshas Vayeshev begin, “And Yaakov settled in the land of his fathers, the land of Canaan. These are the offspring of Yaakov: Yosef, at the age of seventeen years…” Rashi comments with the following insight: “Yaakov sought to settle in peace and tranquility,” but it was not to be. “The ordeal of Yosef was sprung upon him.” The commentaries explain that Hashem does not allow tzaddikim (the righteous) to have peace in This World.
There’s always something, isn’t there? Just when we thought, “OK, thank goodness we’ve lived through THAT” – bam! Along comes something else that requires our attention, hard work, and steadfast faith in the Almighty. Can’t we ever just have some peace and quiet?
But that’s not the point of living. We’re not here to sit back and relax. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for,” goes the famous aphorism by William G.T. Shedd. If we are being challenged, it means that Hashem believes in us. We can count ourselves among the righteous, who are out there plying the high seas of This World, making ourselves better people and the world around us a better place.
“How do I even know I’m on the right track?” I asked one of my rebbetzins in exasperation one day. “If you wake up in the morning, you are on the right track,” she said. I think about this often, when I’m feeling worn out and just want to gallivant off to Bora Bora or somewhere far, far away from it all. (Not to say that we shouldn’t ever take a vacation to recoup our strength, but vacation never makes the real issues actually go away…) If we wake up in the morning, we’re here. We’re on the right track. G-d believes in us. And we’re here to work.
Relaxation is overrated.
By Tova Zussman, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at The Jewish Experience