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Parashat Vayeshev - 5775

My friends,

This Parasha contains one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible - Joseph and his Brothers.

"Vayeshev Yaakov" - "Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's journeys, in the land of Canaan."

"Eileh Toldot Yaakov" - "These are the generations (stories, events) of Jacob: when Joseph was seventeen years old, being a shepherd, he was with his brothers with the flocks, and he was a lad, [and was] with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil tales about them to their father."

Rather than discuss the Joseph story, which is well known, I would like to share with you a teaching by our great Bible commentator Rashi, based on the first verse of this Parasha, Vayeshev. Since the entire Parasha is devoted to Joseph and his brothers, why does it begin with he words "Vayeshev Yaakov", Jacob dwelt? Why not begin with the second verse "Eileh Toldot Yaakov", This is the story of Jacob, Joseph was ...?

Rashi explains: The reason the Torah begins and uses the word Vayeshev, "Jacob sat, settled, dwelt", is that Jacob thought that after all that he has gone through in his lifetime, that the time has finally arrived that he can just "Vayeshev", settle down. He earned the opportunity to relax, watch his kids and grandkids and enjoy the fruits of his hands. G-d, however, had other plans for Jacob. What follows these thoughts is the disappearance of Joseph and the tumult that will be brought upon Jacob for the next 17 years. It is as if G-d is saying to Jacob: "What do you mean you want to relax? Isn't it enough the rewards you will get in the world to come, you also want to be rewarded in this world? I will show you ... now you will not be able to relax because of Joseph."

There is a lesson here for all of us. Sometimes we reach a point in life when we might say, "I have done enough - I have given enough to charity, I have volunteered enough, I have served on so many boards, it's time for me to relax. I want to just sit and enjoy my life." G-d says to us, "Don't." The reward for all good deeds is in the world to come. No matter how much we have done already, there is more to be done. We cannot retreat and say we have done enough (I have attended enough services, I have served my community, I have been there, I have done that.) No. We are needed. Mitzvot and Maassim Tovim, good deeds and acts of kindness, have no limits. There is always one more thing we can do.

Vayeshev's message is to keep going. There is someone - an organization, a non-profit, a community - that needs you. You cannot retreat.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram