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Parshat Vayeshev

By: Yosef Seewald and Ari Rockoff

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This pasuk leads into a whole slew of very different and interesting interpretations of what is actually going on in this week's parsha. With the help of several mifarshim, we will try to delve into the depths of Torah. The Sifsei Chachamim starts us off. The main problem with this pasuk is that the Torah writes the word Vayeshev- and he settled- as opposed to the standard Vayagar- and he lived.

Rav Hirsh, leading up to Rashi's pshat, teaches us that the word Gur, is the opposite of Yashav. He also mentions that the word Yashav is related to Yatzav. ""Yatzav means to stand firm and upright and, in accordance with the dominant sound, to energetically overcome obstacles. Yashav, in accordance with the dominant sound, indicates a natural, quiet, unobstructed staying, i.e. to sit. Gur, in contrast,""means staying at a place where one does not belong.

Then Rashi steps in. Rashi, quoting Tanchuma Yashan, tells us that Yaakov wanted to settle down in tranquility but then the ordeal of Yosef sprung upon him. The righteous seek to dwell in tranquility but Hashem says, "Is it not enough that tzadikim get tranquility in the next world, that they want tranquility in this world as well?"
The Alshich Hakadosh asks why it was improper for Yaakov to desire tranquility. What is wrong with enjoying the fruits of all his good deeds in this world as well as in the next world? Pashtus, nothing. But Yaakov should have realized that if Hashem wanted him to live a life of tranquility then He would have given it to him, but Yaakov should not have actively sought it.

R' Akiva Eiger has a whole different take on it. His chiddush is that the main concern among tzadikkim is whether or not they will receive their Olam Haba. Yaakov had received a sign from heaven, as Medrash Tanchuma says in Parshas Vayigash, that as long as none of his sons died in his lifetime, his share in Olam Haba was assured. Therefore, Yaakov thought that he could now enjoy tranquility in this world. But once he was no longer secure in the knowledge that all his sons were alive, he once again had to concern himself with the concern that plagues all righteous people- whether or not he would have a share in Olam Haba.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, quoted in Toras Menachem, asks how Rashi could state that Yaakov's request for tranquility wasnt granted. Yaakov spent the first 63 years of his life in peace plus 14 in yeshiva and another 17 years when he was in Egypt so how could Rashi say that Yaakov wasnt granted a peaceful life. The Rebbe answered that when a person is still living in his parents' house or when he learns in yeshiva, he is still relatively free of responsibility. Yaakov only began to lack this tranquility once he got married and willingly accepted 20 hard working years in Lavan's house. It was only upon returning to Eretz Yisroel, after being chased by Esav and Lavan, that he truly desired a peaceful life, a life that he could spend improving his Avodas Hashem and Torah learning.

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz in Sichos Mussar, asks an obvious question. Certainly Yaakov didnt seek out tranquility merely to enjoy the comforts of this world; rather he wanted to enjoy a tranquil life that would allow him to pursue Talmud Torah and Avodas Hashem without hindrance or distraction. Therefore, why was Yaakov criticized for his well-intentioned desire? "To answer this question, we must look at man's purpose in this world from a different perspective. This world wasnt created to afford people the opportunity to serve G-d in tranquility and repose. Rather, this world is a place where one is to serve G-d while overcoming obstacles and impediments in the face of adversity and enmity." This explains the saying in Avos d R' Nosson (3:6), better one [deed] accomplished in hardship than a hundred [deeds] done with ease. The Chazon Ish explains this beautifully by saying that it's easy to love bitachon when bitachon loves you, but the real litmus test is how your bitachon holds up when times are hard.

We can learn from this, that if Yaakov Avinu had to be tested and overcome hardship and strife in order to get his full rewards, then when G-d throws a monkey wrench into our plans, we too should know that it's all for the best.