Vayeshev Yakov,  ==  And Yakov settled...

Says the midrash:  After his episodes with Lavan, Esav, and in Shechem, Yakov returned to Israel, and hoped to live in tranquility; whereupon Hashem responded by throwing him into the ordeal with Yosef (the proceeding episode in the parsha).  And He exclaimed:  “Is it not enough what is prepared for the righteous in the next world, yet they also expect a life of tranquility in this world too!!”

This Midrash jumps out at us as a little difficult, first to grasp, then to swallow.  And isn’t Hashem suppose to be nice? Especially to His faithful servants, certainly His Hand should not be insufficient to bestow any possible bounty.  And why does the Midrash imply some sort of interdependency between how Hashem relates to us in this world and in the next?

“Keep the mitzvas and statutes which I am commanding you today to do them” { Deuternonomy 7:11 } The gemarra (Eruvin 22A) Expounds from the apparently superfluous word ‘to do them’  (in the Holy Tongue it’s a single word)  -for it is obvious that keeping the mitzvas means doing them, – thus the conclusion of the verse is coming to teach us a new thing, namely “Today is to do them, tomorrow is to receive their reward ”

At the beginning of it all, before Creation, in His infinite Goodness, the Creator decided, so to speak, to bestow His good, and so a Creation was in order. He also decided that rather than have the creation  immediately reap that good, it would be preferable for it to earn their keep, rather than receive His benificence as charity. In order for the creation to have the opportunity to earn its reward, which would enable its receiving of reward to be more perfect, the Creator decreed that the Creation should be divided into two stages.
The first: an open forum whereby one could earn merit and perfection via choosing good and aligning oneself with the Creator’s will.  Of course to fulfill the purpose of this world, the choice would have to be a real challenge, and thus man was placed in a world balanced between dark and light, with either option of equal appeal, as well man himself was implanted with two drives, one for good and one for things which Hashem deemed not good, or evil.
Upon completing one’s struggles and tasks in the first stage, man would then ascend to the final stage whereupon he would enjoy eternal good, from the source of Ultimate good, but determined his efforts in the first stage. “This world is like a corridor before the world to come; prepare yourself in the corridor in order to enter the ballroom”  (Ethics of the Fathers 3:16)

Thus our first birth, that is our entry into this world, is to work, there is no word for retirement in the Torah, implying that it is not a true component of Creation -“Man is born to toil”  {Jobe} .  As long as we still have ‘koach’ we ought to figure out the best way to use it, and get to work, fixing the world and ourselves according to mitzvas and principles handed down to us.  Therefore, in spite of Yakov’s unenviable life of ‘tzaros’, his intention, even if was subconscious, to spend his final years in a relaxed atmosphere, to build a comfortable life to coast along in was wrong.  Being that Yakov is the third pillar of the Jewish nation, who bear his name (Israel) due to his perfection, and to whom all of his offspring ended up straight, for his sake, for his children and for the future, Hashem could not sit back, so to speak, and let Yakov waste away, or even to not fulfill his potential for every day of his precious life.  (As the Torah eulogizes regarding Abraham that ‘he came with his days’.)
Understanding this rule of life can serve as a great motivator for us, for it also says in Ethics of the Fathers ‘One moment of a cool breeze in the next world surpasses all the pleasures that ever will exist in this world put together [which makes sense to us, if that is the forum which Hashem specially created for reward], and one moment in this world is more precious than the whole next world” – and the greatness of this world is that is the only place we can effect change, we can’t change our seat in the ballroom after we’ve entered.  “This world is like erev shabbos, before the next world, so prepare on the weekday before the sun sets” .
On the other side of the coin, we can take comfort in this knowledge, for when life seems difficult, and the challenges don’t look as if they are letting up, we can rest assured that everything is going as planned, and we’re doing a good job.  Of course we are also allowed to enjoy life, in fact it is a mitzvah, for life is truly wonderful and precious, (especially for the nation that gets to serve the Creator and enjoy an intimate relationship even in this world). In addition, every seven days Hashem bestows upon His beloved people the Holy Shabbos, a day of rest from our worldly toil and creation, otherwise known as ‘ a taste of the world to come’.

Wishing you a lovely shabbos,

-Beth Shifra Crew