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Vayechi(Genesis 47:28-50:26)

Vayechi 5760

GOOD MORNING!  Several people have asked me to comment on the turn of the millennium and the Y2K problem. First of all, the last year of the millennium is the year 2,000, not 1999; so, people are celebrating the new millennium one year prematurely. Secondly, from a Jewish point of view, this is year 5760 ... so we won't have a millennium problem for 241 more years -- and that will be our Y6K problem...

However, in as much as there is an opportunity for reevaluating one's life, grab the moment! Our sages tell us that if we want to be great, we should do a nightly cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting for our deeds. Ask yourself (and answer) four questions:

  1. What am I living for?
  2. What did I do towards my goal today?
  3. What did I do counter to my goal today?
  4. What is something that is more important to live for?

Do that every night before you go to sleep and you have a guarantee of making more out of your life.

There is an old witticism, "Remember, you are unique -- just like everyone else." The fact is that while each and every human being is precious and special, there are inner aspirations which are common to all of us. One of my goals with the Shabbat Shalom Fax is to help people reach their potential -- to be all they can and to get the most out of life. In line with this goal, I present to you The Universals -- needs and desires common to mankind. If you recognize that these are beliefs or values that are a part of you, then focus on how you could lead your life towards greater fulfillment by living them.

Q & A: What are Universal Beliefs Common to Mankind?

  1. We All Need Meaning. Did you ever ask yourself "What is it all about?" "What is the point of it all?"

  2. We Are Not Fulfilling Our Potential. Will making more money or improving your golf score really make you feel better? Is there something more important in life that you can accomplish?

  3. We All Want To Be Great. Nobody wants to be mediocre. We want to be special.

  4. We Turn To G-d For Help. If you turn to G-d in a pinch, then don't wait for the pinch. Ask yourself, "What does G-d want?"

  5. We Want To Be Good. People are willing to die to be good. If there is something you would be willing to die for, then it becomes worth living for it.

  6. We Feel Responsible For the World. People give up with "What can I do about it?" or "It's too much to take on." If you knew that if you took off six months that you could bring peace to the world, you would do it, wouldn't you? And if you didn't, how would you feel about yourself?

Questions to Help You Get in Touch With Your Life:

  1. You dreamed at 20 what you would like to do or be. Are you living that dream?

  2. What would you want said at your eulogy?

  3. Who is your hero? Why?

  4. When do you feel most meaningful?

  5. If you could make a difference, what would you do?

Combine the Universals and the above Questions with the nightly Accounting ... and I think you'll find the next millennium (whenever it really starts) much more meaningful!


Torah Portion of the Week
Vayechi

The parasha, Torah portion, opens with Jacob on his deathbed 17 years after arriving in Egypt. Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons, Manasseh (Menashe) and Ephraim (to this day it is a tradition to bless our sons every Shabbat evening with the blessing, "May the Almighty make you like Ephraim and Manasseh" -- they grew up in the Diaspora amongst foreign influences and still remained devoted to the Torah). (The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is "to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.") He then blesses each of his sons individually with blessings. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary.

A large retinue from Pharaoh's court accompanies the family to Hebron to bury Jacob in the Ma'arat Hamachpela, the burial cave purchased by Abraham. The Torah portion ends with the death of Joseph and his binding the Israelites with a promise to bring his remains with them for burial when they are redeemed from slavery and go to the land of Israel. Thus ends the book of Genesis!

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

When Jacob blesses his children before he dies, he says about his son Yissachar, "And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and he bowed his shoulders to bear" (Genesis 49:15). What does this mean?

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explains that the tribe of Yissachar was noted for its devotion to Torah study. Yissachar knew that rest and peace of mind were necessary to master the Torah. What did he do? "He bowed his shoulder to bear" -- by training himself to bear any difficulties, he was able to reach the highest levels of peace of mind in all situations.

People seek peace of mind by trying to obtain physical peace. This is exactly what creates so much stress and tension in people's lives. A person who becomes used to having peace of mind only when nothing is missing in his life will be broken by unusual circumstances. A person who seeks peace of mind by having physical comforts is similar to a person who drinks salt water to quench his thirst. For a moment it appears that he is quenching his thirst, but very soon his thirst will be stronger than ever.

The reason people are broken is because they have many different life situations and feel much stress because of the changes between them. When a person experiences one stressful situation after the other, they add up and become overwhelming.

How does one develop peace of mind? Be aware of your ultimate goals in life. When you are aware of what life is really about and keep your focus on this, you are constantly in one situation: traveling towards your goal. When you internalize this awareness you will never be overly disturbed or broken. The person who views all life situations as a means to reach his ultimate goals experiences less stress and will be able to cope with difficulties.

Soldiers are trained for battle. A prerequisite is to have peace of mind though they are in danger and in chaos. They are trained by removing all comforts, to ignore difficulties and to focus on their goal -- to win. Likewise, for peace of mind, we need to focus on the goal and to know that physical comfort is neither the goal nor the means.

Published: January 18, 2000

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