Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayetzei November 27, 2014

Genesis 28:10 – 32:3

“And God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her, and opened her womb. And she became pregnant and she bore a son, and she said God has gathered in my disgrace. And she called his name Jospeh, saying, ‘May God grant me another son.’ ”

After many years of barrenness, the matriarch Rachel finally realizes the answer to her prayers. She gives birth to a son. Almost immediately, she asks the Lord for another child. Does that sound surprising?

Actually Rachel’s desire for more children was not selfish. For Rachel, having children meant playing a key role in the building of the children of Israel. Her request to have more children was a reflection of her own desire to play a greater role in building the legacy of her beloved, Jacob; of contributing sons who would be leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel to come; of adding to those who were called to fulfill God’s purpose as His chosen nation. This was not a sign of ingratitude, but the expression of a woman who yearned to participate in God’s purposes.

Life on this earth has many components and a plethora of opportunities. Our individual time on this earth is a journey of choices. We can focus on the accomplishments that this world values: career, possessions, bank accounts, prestige, achievements, success. We can build strong families and provide college educations for our children. In and of themselves, all of these have a certain merit.

But it’s not enough. The central issue is WHY. Why do we work long hours, build an enviable career, achieve a certain social status, strain for success? Why do we have children, raise them and educate them?

A life that is lived without eternity in focus is an incomplete and limited journey. There is a proverb in Ethics of the Fathers that describes this world as the “lobby of the World to Come” and urges us to so live each day mindful that eternity awaits us. Conscious of that, we will be diligent to protect our spiritual life lest it be crippled or damaged by the pressures and cares of life on earth.

It is highly possible to stumble through life on a kind of ‘automatic pilot’- going through the motions of life but without any great desire to seek God and to achieve spiritual greatness. The matriarch, Rachel, along with all the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs urge us by their example to keep our priorities in order: Seek God, learn His ways, apply them in daily life, teach them to your children and
in all you do, be mindful that this life is the ‘lobby of the World to Come’. Let every day be preparation for the Grand Entrance into His glorious Presence!

Shabbat Shalom – and to all my American readers, a blessed and healthy Thanksgiving!

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