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Parshas Vayeishev - Work Today; Live Tomorrow         21 Kislev 5782

11/25/2021 01:04:05 PM


The average person thinks retirement is a time reserved for people when they get older. While it may be true that most people retire when they are older, one should seriously think about retirement when they are young. Catherine Valega, a certified financial planner in Winchester, Massachusetts, discusses the concept that at retirement there is  a 40-hour gap in your week that you need to fill. She asks, “Are you sure you have enough activities to keep your body, mind and spirituality occupied for the many years you have ahead of you?”

How much time do you realistically see yourself spending going on long walks, lounging poolside, or curling up on the couch with a good book - especially after the novelty wears off? Think hard. About this. Think long term before you retire. Do you want to volunteer? Go back to school? Pick up a new hobby or resume an old one? Come up with a plan in advance of retirement.  Raymond Jetson, 64, spends a great deal of time working to revamp the concept of what it means to be retired. He should know. He has retired twice and now is at the helm of the social enterprise MetroMorphosis.  He is quoted saying: “…I wake up every day and ask myself, What will you do today that will matter 20 years from now?"

While it is true that the average young Jewish family works hard to provide for their family. For the religious Jewish family, working hard to provide is challenging in many more ways than just making a living wage. The orthodox lifestyle and demands, in addition to observing and fulfilling the Mitzvos of the Torah, complex issues of costs of Jewish education, summer camp, daily increasing costs of kosher food, and so much more.

In this week’s parshas Vayeishev the Torah states in Bereishis 37:1 "וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביב, בארץ כנען"   “Meanwhile, Yaakov settled in the area where his father had lived in the land of Canaan”. This area is known today as Chevron. In the next verse Rashi gives another interpretation of וישב  - that Yaakov desired to dwell לישב in peace. However, there sprung upon him the troubles of Yosaif – the righteous desire to dwell in peace. The Holy One Blessed Be He, said, “It is not sufficient for the righteous that which is prepared for them in the world to come, but they seek to dwell in peace (also) in this world!” The traditional explanation is that Yaakov should not be thinking or planning to retire. This has been my understanding for years; it never occurred to me that this is a very strange understanding that Rashi presents. It does not make sense that this is what Yaakov wants to do.

I am not going to offer an “alternative” answer but will focus on the actual pshat -the true, correct understanding of Yaakov wanting to “retire”. This verse comes to teach us that from the time Yaakov was outside the land of Canaan and the time traveling back to his father’s house, he strove to acquire many physical acquisitions and increase the size of his flock. Yaakov even prided himself by telling Lavan (Bereishis 31:40) how during the day the drought consumed him and he was also consumed by the frost by night. But as soon as he reached his father’s home in Eretz Canaan, he entered a land that was prepared and ready to serve Hashem from two avenues: The first from the place that his holy father Yitzchok and grandfather Avraham lived; the second:it was the holy land that God had chosen. At this point Yaakov no longer wanted to work for things of this world. He ceased his pursuit of financial gain in this world,-  increasing the number of cattle, sheep, and the other physical ‘stuff’. His intent was to accomplish the same things as his forefathers. At this point in his life, he gave over the business, the money making of gashmiyus/physicality with his animals and flock so as to allow and give the opportunity to his sons the same manner as he had done during his [Yaakov’s] earlier years. This explains what the statement  ‘Yaakov did not want to go out’ means. He no longer wanted to go out and shepherd; he wanted to go learn and be a part of his father’s house. This is exactly what Avraham and Yitzchok did when they reached a certain age. They separated, distanced themselves from money-making propositions. Instead of pursuing money they pursued the service to Hashem, preparing themselves for prophecy and ever-deepening connection to Hashem. This all took place in Eretz Canaan, the land Hashem seeks out for holiness and greatness. This was Yaakov’s vow earlier when he says in Bereishis 28:21, “…and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then I will dedicate myself totally to God”. Another proof is that the Torah states in Bereishis 35:27 that Yaakov thus came to his father Isaac in Mamre, at Kiryat Arba, better known as Chevron. This is where Avraham and Yitzchok resided. The passuk is not coming to inform us that the location was Chevron, because everyone knew that. Rather it comes to teach us Yaakov’s reason for tracing the steps of his father. In fact, Chevron was a rocky land that was not suitable for his flock to graze. It was perfect for his ‘Hisbodedus’, his self-seclusion and meditation to be with Hashem. Therefore, he gave over his “business” of cattle and flock to his children and sent them to Shechem, a place far away from Chevron but better suited for grazing.

Yaakov chose to return to his true passion, a passion he had when he was a young boy dwelling in the tent of Torah. As a youngster he was able to learn in Yeshiva and be close to Hashem one hundred percent of the time, learning strictly on the spiritual realm. Out of necessity he went to work and became a wealthy businessman, raised a large family, and made enough to return to a place that was conducive for this new job in life. Typically, someone who makes a great deal of money wants, actually needs, to make more money.  Shlomo HaMelech states in Koheles 5:9 “Whoever loves silver (money) will not be sated with silver”. Yaakov was able to overcome the natural inclination man has for money and possessions, and leaving it all  to work for God.

Yaakov’s retirement did  not consist of sitting in a rocking chair on the porch reading the paper every day. Yaakov’s settling would be to go back and do what his passion was from the beginning: to serve Hashem. Every Jew needs to appreciate that our ultimate job is to serve Hashem as much as possible. Yes, life requires a person to earn a living* and at times not have enough time to serve Hashem as much or in the manner they would prefer. Nevertheless, when the opportunity arises on a day off, a day free from work such as a Sunday or legal holiday, this is the opportunity to use the time to work for Hashem. Later in life when, God willing, we are blessed with financial security, we will focus and dedicate all our resources in Avodas Hashem, “working for Hashem” in the years of our “retirement”.            

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*This does not and should not preclude a person’s Mitzva, the opportunity to serve God in every capacity - especially in the business world. This essay speaks to exclusivity in terms of physical retirement from a job, allowing us all the precious time to dedicate our attention fully to Hashem in other areas that they could not do during their working years.

Wed, December 8 2021 4 Teves 5782