In Parshat Vayeshev we learn about the importance of yerida, going down. While that may seem strange because we say to make aliya, go up, to Israel or that people try to strive higher, there is a big value in yerida. In Torah reading this week, Yehuda goes down in status and to a place away from his siblings. We also have Yosef as an example in this parsha. Yosef went down to Egypt and while in Egypt got thrown down to the dungeon, which al happened after his brothers had thrown him down into a pit. Yosef went from one yerida to the next. Later on, Yaakov and his family also go down to Egypt and become slaves.
Going down is nothing anyone should hope for, however, despite that, it seems like a necessity to be able to grow. How can one grow without falling down? In Mishlei (Proverbs), it says כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨בַע יִפּ֣וֹל צַדִּ֣יק וָקָ֑ם, a righteous man will fall seven times and get up. King Solomon, the author, is allowing us to realize what makes people righteous and able to be role models for others are those who fall and get back up. For them to have become righteous they needed to have a yerida of their own. Without falling down and learning from mistakes, how can people grow?
Take Yehuda, for example. It was not easy for him to be demoted by his brothers, have his children die and then have to admit that he made a mistake with Tamar. Despite that, he got up and used his downfall to raise himself up. Yehuda learned to admit his mistakes and merited the Jewish people being named after him—Yehudim—along with kingship descending from him as well.
Yosef too was raised up after his downfall. After being thrown in a pit by his siblings and left to die, he was sent to be a slave and eventually sentenced to jail. Yosef learned to humble himself and not show off, which enabled him to be next in command to the king of Egypt and close to Hashem. He learned that everything is from God and that all is done for the greater good—an idea that Judaism relies on. Yaakov and his family’s yerida caused them, as well as us, to rise.
From Egypt, we became a nation chosen by God and received the Torah. We learned moral values like not oppressing others and saw God’s hand. While all of these “going downs” are bad, we all go through them too. Ours may not seem extreme compared to what the avot faced, but it is extreme for us and we must get up like our ancestors before us.
We are all capable of being righteous. We are all capable of falling and getting back up. Not only that we are capable of getting back up but finding the blessings in these downfalls. It is when we are at our depths that we call out to Hashem (Psalms 130) and we can become the tzadik who gets up and counts our blessings. A righteous Jew’s path down only leads to his being raised up even higher. My blessing to everyone reading this is, that when you have a fall you come up higher and take the blessings—and the lessons—from your downfall to become greater.
By Shira Sedek