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Parashat Vayeshev – Hardships

וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו

And Yaakov settled in the land his forefathers lived

 

After many years of various troubles, Yaakov Avinu, with a family now whole and no one after him, finally returns to his homeland. All he wanted to do was settle in peace, to live without looking over his shoulder. Finally, it seemed he would be able to do that.

Rashi quotes a Midrash that explains that this was the trigger for the episode of Yosef being sold as a slave. “Is it not enough that Tzaddikim have the next world set for them, they also ask for calm in this world?”

Rav Yerucham Levovitz asks what this is supposed to mean. It’s not like Yaakov was looking for freedom to “eat, drink, and be merry.” He wanted to be able to learn Torah uninterrupted, to get close to Hashem in peace. What’s wrong with wanting such calm?

The answer to this lies in one of the key differences between this world and the next. This world is a world of hardships. A lack of hardship is a taste of the next world, which is only given as a reward for getting through this one. Yaakov spent years by Lavan without complaint, despite Lavan constantly cheating him. He was able to say after all that time that he kept all the mitzvot even while in close proximity to such a terrible influence. Lavan himself searched through all of Yaakov’s possessions and couldn’t even find anything as inconsequential as a needle that he could claim Yaakov stole. All this led Yaakov to believe that he perhaps finished with his share of hardships. Yaakov wanted to now live in peace.

The end to hardships only comes at the end of life itself. Hashem could theoretically put us directly into the next world, but we need to first purify ourselves by keeping the mitzvot even through the hardships of this world. Every additional struggle that we succeed adds to our purification, and when there’s no more purity to be had we can go to the next world.

This fresh perspective and understanding can help us with our own struggles. It’s not your partner that’s trying to steal from you, and it’s not the electric company that’s taking too long to fix your issue. It’s Hashem giving you opportunities to purify yourself through passing these struggles as whole as you went into them.

 

Shabbat Shalom

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