Updated: Dec 15, 2022
Nobody likes to be called into work on their day off. You put in the work, you did your job, and then on the day you’re supposed to be taking it easy and relaxing with your family, you get an urgent call that you’re needed back at the office to deal with an emergency.
Still, since you may be the only one that can resolve this urgent situation, that means your contribution is not only important, but vital to the entire project. In fact, if you don’t hurry in to deal with the emergency, all the work you put in previously may go to waste. So by dropping everything on your day off, when you should have been on vacation, you are ensuring that the efforts that preceded the emergency will have been worthwhile.
A similar event occurred to our forefather Jacob, who spent many years away from home. He lived with his father-in-law Laban, who took advantage of him. His entire family was nearly annihilated by his evil brother Esau. And yet he survived; he managed to return to the land of his parents, the Holy Land, and he was looking forward to putting his difficult years behind him. He was ready to settle and live out his remaining years in peace.
But G-d had other plans for him. Just as Jacob was starting to get comfortable, his favorite son Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and that led to another two decades of suffering. It wasn’t until he was reunited with his son, in Egypt of all places, that Jacob was finally able to “relax” and settle down comfortably.
Was Jacob really interested in taking it easy and just kicking it back? Sure, he suffered a lot and no doubt deserved to live in peace. But knowing what we know about our forefathers, they were committed to their spiritual mission more than anyone else that ever lived. They lived and breathed bringing awareness of G-d to the entire world. So why would Jacob’s goal be to relax?
We must therefore say that the peace and relaxation that Jacob thought he deserved at that point was not just because he had a hard life. He never complained about his hardships, because he knew it was part of his mission. He knew that tending sheep for twenty years was a channel through which he could bring G-d into the world. And his being persecuted by his relatives was also part of his mission, with his survival being proof that he had succeeded in his mission.
So once all that was behind him, his mission was done and he was at peace. Or so he thought. Jacob thought it was over, but G-d said there was still more work to be done There was still one more hurdle he had to overcome before his mission of bringing peace into the world could be truly realized.
The events surrounding Joseph’s life were very much tied to Jacob’s own history. Joseph’s tribulations were an extension of his father’s mission, and his eventually being appointed leader of Egypt was the next necessary step in bringing holiness to the furthest reaches of the universe. Had this not occurred, the peace Jacob so yearned for would have never happened. But by his not being allowed to settle down comfortably after returning home, he was assured that everything he endured in the past would persevere. By Joseph picking up where Jacob left off, by the mission being continued and enhanced, that’s when true peace became possible.
We can all use some of that in our lives too. May we all live to see the true fruits of our labor, may the world become kinder, and may we experience true peace with the coming of Moshiach!