Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayeshev
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Simcha bat Chana

The wish to settle serenely


Rabbi Berel Wein

20 kislev 5769
Yaakov settles in the Land of Israel, the Land of Canaan, the land of his forefathers. In that first sentence of this week’s parsha lies the hope of Yaakov and of all his descendants. Rashi, quoting the Midrash, states that Yaakov wanted to rest from his earlier troubles and remain serene and at peace for the balance of his life. This is a natural human wish and desire. But the troubles of Yaakov are not over by any means. The incident of the dispute and resultant tragedy of Yosef and his brothers will erase any hope of Yaakov to remain serene and at peace with himself. The truth of Jewish history indicates that the years of serenity of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel were relatively few and far between. We always thought that the creation of our national home in the Land of Israel would be the ultimate panacea for Jewish life. Herzl promised that anti-Semitism would disappear with the creation of an independent Jewish state. Tragically, history has shown the case certainly to be otherwise. In fact, the Jewish state has in many respects exacerbated the campaign of anti-Semitism in today’s world. The longing for serenity oftentimes blinds people to unpleasant realities and forthcoming dangers. Yaakov is aware of the problem between Yosef and his brothers but he is not proactive in preventing the violence that lies below the surface of this dispute. His desire to rest and settle in peace in the Land of Israel – simply to be left alone by all of his neighbors and potential enemies – essentially prevents him from attempting to prevent the civil war brewing in his house. The Lord is therefore critical, so to speak, of Yaakov’s desire for serenity at all costs. Serenity is in the World to Come and not in this world of problems and challenges.

The Jewish community here in Israel desires peace and serenity at almost all cost. The desire is so strong that it has led to a great dispute between different sections of Israeli society. The desire for peace overwhelms all other issues and creates great rivers of division and even violence amongst us. So there is really little effort to heal these divisions and concentrate somehow on our own homes and families. The desire for peace and serenity has sucked all of the oxygen out of all of the other issues of Israeli life. In pursuing a goal that may currently be beyond our abilities we abandon the opportunity to truly achieve success in more mundane challenges that face us. Ben Gurion, not noted for his great piety, nevertheless said that there are certain issues that will have to be left to messianic times for permanent solution. Undoubtedly he meant that certain problems are not given to our solution currently. We are entitled to aspire for serenity and peace, but not at the expense of the realities and dangers that face us. Yaakov’s example remains as an important lesson for us as well in our present challenges and difficulties.
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