Thursday, December 15, 2022

"lei'shev b'shalvah" - something to avoid or something to strive for?

My son wrote last week (lightly edited):

After Yaakov fights with the angel, he is given the name Yisrael כי שרית אם אלקים ואנשים ותוכל.  If the point is that Yaakov was able to even be victorious over angels, shouldn't he have been named תוכל for he was victorious?  Rav Leibel Eger explains that the point isn't the victory, the point is the battle.  Klal Yisrael is named for the fact that they are willing to put up a fight no matter what stands in the way. 

Rashi comments on the opening of our parsha,  וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּאֶ֖רֶץ מְגוּרֵ֣י אָבִ֑יו, that ביקש יעקב לישב שלוה קפץ עליו רוגזו של יוסף.  R' Moshe Avigdor Amiel points out that the opening pasuk uses davka the name Yaakov, as opposed to 2 pesukim later when we read  וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אָהַ֤ב אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ מִכׇּל־בָּנָ֔יו כִּֽי־בֶן־זְקֻנִ֥ים ה֖וּא ל֑וֹ and the name Yisrael is used.  It is Yaakov who desires tranquility, but the role of a Jew is to be a Yisrael, to engage in ongoing toil and battle, as that is the only way to grow.  

Sefas Emes (5635) writes:  ומ"ש קפץ עליו. רוגזו של יוסף לא הי' עונש על זה רק שא"א לתקן הכל בלי נסיונות רבות כאלו.  The trials and tribulations of dealing with the episode of Yosef are not a punishment for asking לישב שלוה.  They are the means of fulfilling that wish.  You can have לישב שלוה by avoiding the difficulties of life; you can have לישב שלוה as a result of successfully managing the difficulties as they come.  Chazal are teaching us that the לישב שלוה of Yaakov/Yisrael is the latter type, and that is what we should strive to emulate. 

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