Most of this week's parasha, Vayeishev, focuses on Joseph and his enslavement, yet the first words of the parasha are about Jacob:
"And Jacob settled in the land of his father's dwelling, in the land of Canaan." (Gen. 37:1)

Rashi explains that after all of the tumult with Laban, Esau, moving back to Israel, and Shechem, Jacob requested from G‑d to be allowed to be still for a while - to "live in tranquility". (Rashi on Gen. 37:2) Instead of tranquility, Jacob was immediately faced with the crisis of Joseph's apparent death.

Rashi explains that the time for a tzadik to rest is not here but rather in the World to Come; in This World, we are supposed to be serving G‑d. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains this differently: Jacob's request to live in tranquility was not in order to shirk responsibility, but rather a desire to achieve the goal of his life, to live in tranquility with his family. G‑d desires our prayers for the Redemption…

For our generation, that level is Mashiach. As long as Mashiach has not yet arrived, we must also demand to "live in tranquility", i.e. that Mashiach should come. This is similar to the famous quote "Israel is not redeemed until they will demand the 'three'". These "three" are the kingship of Heaven realized in This World, the kingship of the House of David, i.e. Mashiach, and the rebuilding of the Temple. The difference between our request and that of Jacob's is that his was followed by the hardships of Joseph. Only after this painful experience did Jacob receive his desired peace during his seventeen years in Egypt.

Regarding our generation, the Jewish people have already completed the tribulations and decrees allotted to us, including the massacres in our own and previous generations. It must be that one reason the Mashiach has not yet arrived is that G‑d desires our prayers for the Redemption. The Chida wrote "As a reward for our hope alone, we are worthy of being redeemed". When all the Jews will truly ask to "live in tranquility", this request will be fulfilled immediately, and we will merit to dwell in physical peace during the era of Mashiach. We were scattered to reveal and to elevate the various few hidden sparks that still remain in each locale…

Our forefather Jacob was living in exile for twenty years, and according to other opinions, thirty-four years. So too with us, Jacob's descendants, we find ourselves scattered time and time again to the width and breadth of the world. The Rebbe asks an interesting question: What is the purpose of all of the exiles and travels of the Jewish people? Superficially at least, this has been a terrible tragedy. And the more we are scattered, the more tragic it is. The danger of annihilation, assimilation, prejudice and alienation grow. Nevertheless, the Rabbis wrote, "The Holy One Blessed Be He did a kindness to Israel in scattering them among the nations." (Pesachim 87b) Each time we settled in a new region, it would cause us to accumulate many customs and cultural characteristics (i.e. language, food and dress etc.) of that specific place.

All of this is for one purpose: to utilize the customs of the world for the service of G‑d, the transformation of something mundane into the realm of the holy. Because each of us tries to live by the basic principles, "In all your ways know G‑d" and "all of our actions should be for the sake of Heaven", these new customs and nuances in Jewish behavior literally add to the body of Torah and mitzvot, making Torah "grow".

This is the inner meaning of the Talmudic expression, "The Holy One Blessed Be He did not exile Israel among the nations except for one purpose, to absorb converts". The word "converts" refers to the divine sparks that are found in all aspects of the world. We were scattered to reveal and to elevate the various few hidden sparks that still remain in each locale. Whether hot sauce from Yemen, or a New York rib steak to grace a Shabbat table, the English language as a vehicle for Torah, or an Italian necktie to complete a new outfit for Yom Tov, in each country the Jewish people are provided with new ways to express our connection to G‑d. One result of this process is that the most potent spiritual energy reaches and transforms the lowest levels of this physical reality creating a truly holy world.

Thus we can understand the power of our own generation. Previously, whole populations of Jewish people moved from place to place. It is only in recent years that you find small groups of Jews scattered worldwide. This itself is an indication that the Redemption is imminent, as we have obviously been sent to each place to purify the last remaining locales before the arrival of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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