Thursday, December 22, 2005

FOR FRIDAY NIGHT: Serenity of Struggle? (Vayeishev)


Kislev 21, 5766 * December 22, 2005


Parshat Vayeishev

Serenity or Struggle?
- - - - - - - - - - -

We often hear that the goal of life is personal serenity. We can all relate to this. No problems, no difficulties. Every day peaceful and calm. The sun always shining. It sounds good!

"But - wait a minute", you say. "What if a person has things to achieve in life? Can you always be calm and peaceful? Might there not be something worth struggling for, worth striving for? Isn't there something we want to achieve?"

Of course there is! First there is the struggle and the effort - then comes the tranquility. You worked hard; you achieved something, now you have earned your right to take it easy! It sounds simple and clear. Yet the Parsha [1] gives a different view. Let us see how.

Jacob had been away from his home for many years. During his time in Lavan's house he had faced many difficulties. However, he had fathered many children. Then on the journey back to the Holy Land, his precious wife Rachel died. When he reached his home region he thought at last he would be able to live in peace.

At this point, however, came the upsetting events with Joseph. Conflict between Jacob's sons led to Joseph being kidnapped and sold. Jacob's contentment turned to grief.

On this the Midrash [2] comments: Jacob wanted to live in calm serenity - but instead came the anguish about Joseph. The Tzaddikim (righteous people) want to live in serenity in this world: is it not enough for them that they will enjoy the World to Come?

We live in a world of struggle. Personal victory lies in making the right step at the right time and facing each situation in a true way. It is a drama with many ups and downs. It also never ends: even if one lives to 120, spiritually one never retires and one never grows old. Instead of finally sitting back and taking it easy, there is fulfillment of the deepest, most important kind: facing the challenge, and taking another step forward!


1. Genesis chapters.37-40.
2. Bereshit Rabbah, quoted in Rashi to 37:2.


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By Dr. Tali Loewenthal, Director of Chabad Research Unit, London

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