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Seeking Tranquility

Our forefather Jacob was in for a vacation.  He had recently returned from his sojourn in Laban's house, where he worked for twenty years for a swindling uncle who repeatedly denied him his fair wages.  Then he had to forge a truce with his brother Esau.  On his way back home to Canaan, his daughter Dinah was kidnapped by Shechem.  After all these tribulations, Jacob felt he had earned the right to some peace.  However, this was not to be.  A few short years after settling in Canaan, conflict brewed between his younger, beloved son Joseph and his other sons, culminating with the sale of Joseph to Egypt.  Jacob was unaware of Joseph's fate, and spent the next twenty-two years mourning for his lost son.

This week's Torah portion begins with the verse, "And Jacob settled in the land of his father."  On the word "he settled," Rashi quotes the Midrash:  Jacob desired to live in tranquility.  But then, the ordeal of Joseph sprung upon him.  The righteous seek to dwell in tranquility.  But the Holy One, Blessed be He, said, "The righteous do not consider that which is prepared for them in the world to come to be enough for them, but seek to dwell in tranquility in this world as well!"

Why does the Almighty seem to be dissatisfied with the desire of the righteous to live a life of tranquility in this world?  Surely, the righteous are not lazy, nor are they trying to shirk their duty.  Their desire for tranquility must have a virtuous motivation - to enable them to devote all their energy to divine service, without the burden of worldly cares and struggles. 

However, true tranquility comes as a result of grappling with challenges, pain and suffering, and emerging with enhanced sensitivity and purified character.  As a direct result of the very difficult period he went through, Jacob was finally able to enjoy the tranquility that he had sought.  He spent the last seventeen years of his life in Egypt, living in comfort as father of the Egyptian viceroy, surrounded by his loyal and devoted family. 

The Midrash says, "Jacob sought to live in tranquility."  This implies that Jacob beseeched and implored G-d to grant him this tranquility.  From this, we learn a profound lesson:  We must beseech and demand of G-d to send us the ultimate tranquility of the Messianic era.  Unlike Jacob, we do not have to undergo any more mourning or suffering - we have already had our share over the course of our difficult history.  We only need to request of G-d to grant us the serenity we have earned.  Surely, upon expressing our desire and need for redemption, we will immediately merit true tranquility with the revelation of Moshiach.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichos vol. 30, pp. 176-183)



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