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Vayeshev(Genesis 37-40)

Life Is a Struggle

The Sages ask: Why did Jacob deserve that Joseph, his favorite son, get sold as a slave to Egypt?

They discover the answer in the name of this parsha, Vayeshev -- "and Jacob rested." Jacob had had a very tough life -- attacked by his brother in the womb; chased out of his father's home without a penny; tricked into marrying a woman he did not love; a father-in-law who wished to kill him; his daughter was raped; his sons murdered a whole city and were wanted men in Canaan; his beloved wife died giving birth. Now that's tough by any standard. And so, Vayeshev -- Jacob wanted a break, to relax and take it easy for a little while. Immediately, the Sages say, Joseph was snatched from him.

What's wrong with taking a break? Surely everyone needs a break now and then. Human beings can't function without some relaxation to ease the stress of life. Who would blame Jacob, after all he'd been through, for wanting to relax a little?

The answer lies in the purpose of a break. Is the break a means to an end, or is it an end unto itself? As winter vacation time rolls around, the question is very appropriate. Is a vacation a means, or is it an end? Is it a break from life, or is it life itself? I meet so many people for whom it is the latter. Life is just the interval one has to "put up with" in-between the vacations. That doesn't say much for life, does it? "I struggle hard during the year, so that once or twice a year I can escape from the struggle." Do we really want to struggle -- just to escape the struggle?!

The Sages say the opposite should be true. Life is about struggle. That's how we grow into better, bigger, more full and complete human beings. It is the struggle that we enjoy so much. Escaping that struggle is sometimes necessary. But only so we can return, rejuvenated, to that struggle. We don't live for our vacations. We take vacations so that when we return we can truly live!

Jacob wanted to escape not because he needed the rest, but because he was tired of facing life anymore. God forced him back into life. In Jewish thinking, if we have stopped grappling with life, we are zombies, walking vegetables. We are missing the boat entirely. I wish you an enjoyable vacation!

 

Published: September 22, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) sherman katz, December 12, 2011 5:32 PM

I disagree with the observation

Hashem wanted to use Joseph for HIs Master Plan for the Jewish people.We do not always understand why bad things happen to good people. There is no reference to Jacob's vacation from life.

(5) Scott Granowski, November 30, 2007 4:57 PM

Resting

Thank you for a great insight. For me, as well, life is an either/or proposition - either I am growing or dying. Resting, for me, is typically "resting on my laurels." Of course, I always precede it with "I deserve it." The wake-up call, as you pointed out here, is never pleasant, but is always a kindness.

(4) Rabstor, November 30, 2007 10:06 AM

Troubled and tried and tired

Although our Rabbis have discussed this Parashah for centuries agreeing that giving in to trials should not be reason for giving up, I would like to remind us that just shortly before the events of Vayishev, we saw Jacob loose the love of his life, Rachel, during the birth of Binyamin. We tend to let our guard down at two different times. One is during great grief and the other is during the time immediately following great victory, as was the case of Elijah fleeing from Jezebel. In fact, these are the times when we have to realize that God is our only hope. It is He who draws near us in the time of need even though we may try to rest at the wrong time. Seek His presence instead of going on vacation from the grind. There will be plenty of time for rest after we are dead to this world. In Revelation 14:13 we read, "and I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord (Y'shua) from henchforth: Yea, saith the Spirit (of God), that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them". I encourage us to remember Daniel 12: 1-3, especially these words, "Many of those that sleep in the dust will awake, some to eternal life, others to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence". JPS Jewish Study Bible So, let not yourself give in to the pressures of life, good or bad as long as we have breath. God bless you all. Rabstor

(3) Anonymous, November 27, 2007 1:59 PM

Is retirement Vacation?

I love being retired. I'm on 24/7 vacation. What do I do? I study Hebrew twice a week; volunteer at three different chesed organizations, attend shiurim and make sure my family and friends abroad know how wonderful Israel is. Every day I write to someone what the good things are about living in Israel. Hooray for vacations.

(2) Bruce Razban, November 26, 2007 3:12 PM

Life can be Tough, and to Cope we to time off to rejuvenate

Life can be tough.
The toughness and hurt listed in this is a good example.
But, we need to cope with life's toughness by re-grouping, re-juvenating, re-energizing ourselves in short vacations.
In a way we might be hurt, but we do not need to suffer, and need to get back on our feet as soon as we can and rejuice in life (with all its difficulties).

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