Ritual Wisdom 12-8-17

This week's Torah reading is Vayeishev Yaakov (Genesis chapters 37 - 40). Most of the reading deals with the story of how the brothers sold Yosef (Joseph) as a slave and he ends up in Egypt.

The name of the Torah reading, Vayeishev Yaakov, implies that Yaakov, who finally returned to his father, Yitzchak, wanted to settle down and enjoy the later years of his life. Yaakov was now one hundred years old. All his twelve sons and his daughter Dina were with him. The twenty difficult years he lived and labored for his father-in-law, Lavan, and the difficult encounter with his brother, Esau, were now behind him. He was now a wealthy man and all he wanted was to live in peace in his homeland.

But G-d said, "Is the reward which awaits the righteous people in the World-to-Come not enough that they want to have peace in this world too?" As a result, his life became difficult again when his son, Yosef, was sold into slavery.

Yosef, whose mother, Rachel, passed away when he was only eight, was Yaakov's favorite son. This caused jealousy from the brothers against Yosef. His two dreams which were interpreted that his eleven brothers will bow down to him, didn't help either.

The brothers sold him into slavery and Yosef ended up in Egypt. Yaakov mourned for his son all the years he was away. In next week's Parsha we will read how Yosef became viceroy of Egypt. His dreams were fulfilled and his brothers bowed to him. Eventually he brought his entire family to Egypt.

Q. How many years was it before Yaakov and Yosef were reunited again?

A. Twenty-two years. Reason: Yaakov spent twenty years in the house of Lavan and two years on the road returning to his father. His father Yitzchak didn't see Yaakov for twenty two years.

Measure for measure, Yosef was away from Yaakov the same amount of years as Yaakov was away from his father, Yitzchak.

Q. What was wrong with Yaakov wanting to rest and have peace after all his difficulties until now?

A. Our sages explain that every person is sent to this world to fulfill a special mission which cannot be accomplished by someone else. As long as a person is alive they have an obligation to be active and fulfill their mission in this world. One should not be satisfied with their previous accomplishments, but strive to do more and more.

This is also the lesson of the Chanukah candles as we add a candle each night. One should not be satisfied with past accomplishments, but continue to contribute and add additional light each day.