When Will it Ever End? – Parshat Miketz
We go through life looking to enjoy its benefits. We cannot simply search out those benefits and live a life of only pleasure. Even if we are successful, that will almost usually lead to a life of existential vacuum. But there is a 'will to joy' that we all share as humans.1 Most of us will have experienced joy at some point in our lives. And most of us will want to experience it more.
This will to joy has been present at least since biblical times. Rashi in last week's parsha mentions that Yaakov had this wish for himself.2 Yet in this week's parsha, Parshat Miketz, we find Yaakov going through yet another personal crisis. There is a famine and he again asks his kids to go down to Egypt to buy food for the family. He is told that in order for their request to be filled, he needs to send his youngest son, Binyamin. We can hear his pain as he then cries out: "Yoseph is missing and Shimon is missing and now you will take Binyamin? I have already been through everything!"3 Almost as if he is saying: "How can I possibly endure another loss." The great forefather of our people is expressing himself - his pain and his anxiety about another potential loss - on such a human level. (Perhaps that is part of his greatness.) The very real pain and struggles just don’t seem to end for Yaakov.
When we go through life and are presented with such struggles, how do we react? Do we allow ourselves to let out a cry or a sigh of pain, frustration and despair? Must we accept it with a stoic silence?
This roller coaster of a life that we live certainly has its ups and downs. This past summer, I had four people within my close network pass away, including my mother, hk"m. Then over the past two months I had two nephews marry, three nieces give birth and had two new grandsons. Things were balancing out.
This week I heard of the tragic death of my cousin, Dr. Richie Friedman, z"l, this past Motzaei Shabbat. Richie was a good person, friend and family man and extremely involved in the community. He initiated and headed up Hatzoloh volunteer ambulance services in different neighborhoods in New York City. He trained countless volunteers in the latest emergency procedures. Yet, he was ironically struck down at the age of 55 by a motorist. It was a tragedy. And my own balance was threatened yet again.
As I deal with yet another tragic death, I find myself in our living room and see my daughter who has just given birth and is presently living with us. I pick up my new grandson…and I thank God…and I smile.
I believe that this pattern will continue. The roller coaster will continue to go up and down. I would want it to move ever-upward. But I try to have a realistic view and take it as it comes. Sometimes overcome with grief…sometimes with boundless joy. The grief is a sign that I had significant relationships in my life. The joy shows that I still do have significant relationships in my life. In a way they are almost complementary. And they are both a part of life.
We learn to live in the present. We allow ourselves to feel the pain and we relish in the joy that comes our way. And we know that it must be this way. And I kiss my grandson.
In memory of my mother, Hentcha Leah bat Yitzchak Lipa, hk"m
In memory of my cousin, Nachum Zvi ben Yitzchak Chaim, z"l
Have A Great Shabbat!