July 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Our parsha begins with, “And Yaakov dwelled…” Picking up on the word “dwelled,” Rashi—based on the Midrash—explains that this teaches us that “Yaakov wanted to dwell in tranquility.” After the multitude of hardships he experienced for so many continuous years, Yaakov wished to finally have some rest from all the difficult challenges of life, and instead live in peace. Yet, as Rashi continues, because of this desire of Yaakov, “The ordeal of Yosef sprung upon him … Hashem said, ‘The righteous do not consider that which is prepared for them in the World to Come to be enough, but they seek to dwell in tranquility in this world as well!’”

One can ask, why wasn’t Yaakov granted his wish to live without challenges? Rav Yerucham Levovitz wonders this and adds that it’s not like Yaakov would have used this serene life for nonsense; he would have used it for good things—to sit and learn Torah! Is Yaakov not allowed to sit and learn in peace?

Rav Yerucham explains that Olam Hazeh, (this world) is a world of difficulty and obstacles. The natural difficulties that arise in this world, act as a purifier—they refine a person. Hence, Yaakov continued to experience more challenges, for trying to avoid being free of them is like trying to skip Olam Hazeh and instead live in [the framework] of Olam Haba (the world to come), and this pursuit isn’t the way the system of life works (Daas Torah, Vayeishev).

It, perhaps, emerges from Rav Levovitz that although Yaakov would have indeed grown tremendously even in a tranquil setting, nevertheless, the growth he would gain from applying himself in Torah while experiencing distress and pain would be even greater.

Similarly, Rav Yaakov Neiman, based on Rav Simcha Zissel of Kelm, explains the inquiry above, that when a person learns Torah while experiencing difficulty and pain, he has the potential to achieve tremendous levels of spiritual growth, that which he otherwise would not have been able to reach if learning in a state of tranquility and peace of mind. Hence, Hashem doesnt let the righteous experience tranquility, because the avodat Hashem that is performed in painful and difficult circumstances is precious in the eyes of Hashem, due to the towering levels of growth that a person gains from such circumstances (Darkei Mussar, Vayeishev).

This idea can, perhaps, explain the Gemara (Sanhedrin 24) that quotes the pasuk in Eicha (3:6), “He had placed me in darkness like the eternally dead,” and says that this alludes to the Talmud Bavli. Rav Chaim Walkin explains that the experience and darkness of galut (exile) was deeper in Bavel than it was in Eretz Yisrael, and yet in Bavel the masterpiece of the Talmud Bavli was developed. Says Rav Walkin, it’s specifically in the difficult circumstances where one grows exponentially, because hardships produce and uncover newfound strengths and abilities within a person that would have otherwise remained dormant and unbeknownst to him (Daas Chaim U’mussar, Vayeishev). Hence, the more challenging circumstances that existed in Bavel brought to fruition a greater ability to produce the great Talmud Bavli.

Rashi above said that once Yaakov sought to dwell in tranquility, the ordeal of Yosef “sprung” upon him. Rav Walkin asks, why is the term “sprung” used? Rav Walkin explains that the term “sprung” can imply something that springs up on its own. This can thus describe Olam Hazeh, which is a world of constant nisyonot and challenges, and that when one challenge fades, another one springs up. Dwelling in tranquility in this world, and the pursuit of it, goes against the very nature of this world and its intended purpose. Hence, when Yaakov tried to seek tranquility—a feature that is antithetical to the purpose of life in this world—the challenge of the ordeal of Yosef sprang up.

The Midrash on the first pasuk in our parsha brings an analogy: “A person was walking on the road and he saw a pack of dogs and was afraid of them, and so he sat down among them. Similarly, once our forefather Yaakov saw Esav and his chieftains, he became afraid of them, and so he dwelled among them” (Bereishit Rabbah 84:5).

Wouldn’t it be more logical to flee from the scary dogs, and Eisav and his people? Instead, it seems like Yaakov did the exact opposite—he went and dwelled among them!

Rav Yaakov Galinsky (Vehigadta, Vayeishev) quotes an explanation from the Chiddushei Harim, that the Midrash is teaching us that when a person sees himself surrounded by distress and difficulty, he should “dwell amongst them,” meaning, one should realize that its sent from Hashem and try to comprehend why it was sent; one should introspect and improve his ways, and accept the situation with love (Vehigadta, Vayeishev). While one might naturally focus on escaping and avoiding challenges and pain, we can perhaps learn from the Chiddushei Harim the idea of “sitting in the pain,” to embrace the difficulties by using such challenging times to one’s advantage—to better our character, to improve our ways, to grow spiritually.

We live in a world of difficulty and constant challenges, but yet, it’s the growth that is gained specifically amidst the pain and challenges of life that can be far greater than without them, since difficult circumstances produce, reveal, and bring to the surface our dormant and hidden strengths and abilities. In trying times, by continuing to dedicate oneself to avodat Hashem and focusing on growth instead of tranquility, despite hardships and pain, one can gain and achieve levels of spiritual growth far greater than times of peace and serenity.


Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles