Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayeshev
To dedicate this lesson

Don't Settle for Less!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Kislev 24 5781
We have often noted that the first word in any Sedra is the key to understanding the action that occurs within. Our Sedra is no exception. The parsha begins, "Vayeshev Yakov b'eretz m'guray aviv, and Yakov settled in the land of his father's travels (in the land of Canaan)." The key word here is "settled."

Rashi brings a Midrash: After all his trials and tribulations - his strife with Esav; his struggle with the angel as well as with his conniving father-in-law Lavan; the kidnapping and rape of Dina - Yaakov wanted to finally settle down in tranquility, but Hashem had other plans for him. "Is it not enough - that which awaits Tzadikim in the World to Come - yet they seek serenity in this world, too?!" ask G-d incredulously. And so, there follows not retirement for Yakov, but the tumultuous saga of his son Yosef’s sale and saga in Egypt.

The message being sent here is that it is not the Jewish way to "settle," to seek or accept inactivity or stagnation; to simply fade away into obscurity. Rather we must utilize every day, every moment, every opportunity we have for additional growth and accomplishment. Moreover, it is davka the challenges and the tough tests which come our way that most serve to strengthen us, that propel us to new heights, that define us. If you move, if you react, you are alive - but if you are dormant and still, you are basically dead.

Thank about where innovation and progress come from; usually it stems from a crisis or a seemingly-impossible challenge. It was the military, for example, that we credit for the World Wide Web, or Internet, which evolved from the U.S. Defense Dept. project in the late 1960's to connect multiple computers in order to communicate on a single network. The "space race" led to developing satellites, which enabled the creation of Global Positioning Systems (e.g. WAZE), enhanced smart-phone communication, and now sophisticated drones. And no doubt the Corona epidemic will lead to many advances in medical science.

While Yaakov endured terrible turmoil due to Yosef's disappearance, which was followed by our descent into Mitzrayim and Egyptian slavery, it would all lead eventually to our miraculous liberation, to the giving of the Torah and our return to Israel. It would serve to steel us for any and all future calamities and captivities that might confront us.

Yaakov, we're told, "settled" in his father's land. Let us recall that Yitzchak settled in G'rar (BR. 26:6, "Vayeshev Yitzchak b'Grar," tied for the shortest pasuk in the Torah!). "G'rar" in today's Hebrew, means "towed." I suggest that Hashem is telling us that we must keep on going, come what may, and that if we stop, He will do what it takes to make sure we continue moving to where we need to go, even if He has to tow us!
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