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Posted on December 8, 2017 (5778) By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner | Series: | Level:

This Shabbos, the first day of Chanukah, we read the parsha of Va’yaishev. “Va’yaishev Yaakov b’eretz m’guray aviv, b’eretz Ca’naan {And Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, in the Land of Ca’naan}. [37:1]”

The following Medrash, brought by Rashi, teaches that this passuk {verse} reveals a mistake that Yaakov made. “‘Yaakov settled’: When Yaakov wanted to ‘settle’ in tranquility, the angry incident of Yosef (his sale, etc.) was cast upon him. When tzaddikim {the righteous} want to live in tranquility, Hashem responds, ‘Is it not enough for the tzaddikim that which is prepared for them in the World to Come? Do they also want to settle in tranquility in this world?'”

Before we deal with this concept in general, let’s try to understand the mistake that is revealed in this passuk.

The Kli Yakar points out that two different terms are used here. The passuk could have said either that “Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s settling” or “Yaakov sojourned in the land of his father’s sojourning.”

This world, when viewed properly is a place where we pass through, we sojourn. Avrohom was told that his descendants would be ‘gairim’, sojourners, for four hundred years [15:13]. This calculation began with the birth of Yaakov’s father, Yitzchak. Yaakov, after all the difficulties he had already endured, now wanted to take it a bit easy and not ‘pay off’ any further shares of the obligation-he wanted to settle in the place where his father had sojourned. Hashem therefore cast upon him the angry incident of Yosef. (The Kli Yakar adds that had Yaakov settled peacefully and not endured that incident, then the redemption from Mitzrayim {Egypt} would have been delayed accordingly.)

With the Kli Yakar’s explanation, we can understand the specific complaint against Yaakov, considering his central role in the history and development of Bnei Yisroel {the Children of Israel}. However, the Medrash extends this concept as a general rule for all tzaddikim. Perhaps this Medrash is a key to understanding what we view as suffering in this world.

I recently attended a ‘seudas hoda’ah {a festive meal of thanks that one celebrates on the date of a personal miracle} of a close friend of mine. He had been severely injured and had almost lost his life in a factory accident. The evening was an intensely inspiring one and helped to give me an understanding in the above Medrash.

The main thrust of the evening was his sharing with us the feeling that, although he had endured and still endures from his loss, he accepts that it was an act of kindness from Hashem. He was not simply giving thanks that his life had been spared but was actually giving thanks for having been put through the entire ordeal. Not that the black cloud has a silver lining, but rather that the entire cloud is actually silver. The fact that we don’t understand it at this point doesn’t take away from the silver’s luster.

Rav Shabsi Yudelovich z”l tells the story of a person who had many difficulties in his life. One day he told his wife that he was going to go to the famed Rav and kabbalist, Rav Shalom Sharabi z”l in order to get a better understanding of his plight and to see what could be done to improve matters.

When he arrived at the Rav’s home, he was asked to wait until the Rav would be available. He settled into a chair and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

As he dreamed he saw himself ascending to the heavens. There he saw a desolate path with no one else in sight. As he began to follow that path, he heard from behind him the clamoring sound of chariots approaching. As it drew near him, he saw that it was filled with sparkling pure angels. Again and again, wagons bearing such angels passed him by. As the last one faded into the distance, silence again descended, and he continued on his way.

Suddenly he heard a similar sound and saw that more chariots were approaching, these bearing dark and frightening angels. With his curiosity aroused, he hurried after them until he came to a large clearing with a large scale standing in the middle.

As he watched these angels ascending the scale, it was explained to him that this was the judgment of a person. Every act that one performs, be it good or bad, creates a spiritual reality in the guise of an angel. The sum total of a person’s life was being scrutinized and weighed.

As he watched, he saw that with almost all of the angels already on the scale, it was tilting strongly against the defendant. He asked who was being judged and was told that it was none other than he, himself. The judgment suddenly took on much greater importance and he felt his knees starting to buckle.

The question was asked if there were any other angels to come forward, but there weren’t. When it seemed that the weighing was final, the question was asked if the defendant had endured any hardships in his lifetime. Suddenly, a large chariot filled with angels arrived and they began to pull off from the scale a corresponding amount of dark angels. He watched the scale rising and almost balancing as the last angels were descending from the chariot. Finally, as the last one pulled off an angel from the scale he saw that it was still tilted ever so slightly against him. In desperation he screamed out “Give me more hardships!” and suddenly woke up from his dream.

The Rav’s wife quickly rushed over to the man, ascertained that he was all right and told him that the Rav would now see him. As he realized that it was all just a dream, he rose from his chair and began to walk to of the house. “Didn’t you want to see the Rav?” she asked. “No need,” he responded, “I’ve already received my answer…”

Every ounce of suffering is meticulously measured by our loving Father in order to help each one of His children reach their potential in eternity. We don’t ask for it, but when it does come, we must try to view it properly.

This works on both an individual and a national level. Chanukah is the celebration of our redemption from the exile of Yavan {Greece}. The four exiles serve as necessary, painful steps toward molding Klal Yisroel and bringing out our latent potential. Only that will ultimately prepare us for the final redemption.

Is it not enough for the tzaddikim that which is prepared for them in the World to Come? Do they also want to settle in tranquility in this world?

“Good Shabbos and a joyous Chanukah,”

Yisroel Ciner

Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).