Parshas Vayeitzei: The Power of Persistence

This week’s Parsha, Vayeitzei, contains two sisters, a heavenly vision, a deceitful uncle, a massive success, the twelve tribes of Israel, and in the midst of all of this- a great deal of persistence. It tells us about the Patriarch Yaakov, and about his journey to Charan, fleeing Esov’s wrath. There he works for his uncle Laban and falls in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel. His love for her is so great that he promises to work for Laban for seven years in order to marry her. Laban deceives him, and he ends up married to Leah, the older daughter, who is initially despised by her new husband and her sister. But Yaakov persists, and pledges another seven years’ work in order to marry Rachel almost straightaway. He fathers the 12 tribes of Israel, and longs to return home. Laban convinces him to stay with the offer of sheep, and he does, before finally leaving in secret. G-d warns Laban not to harm him, and the two make a peaceful pact, before Yaakov arrives in the Holy Land.

Ultimately, Yaakov is a successful man. This is, of course, due to the blessings which G-d bestowed upon him. But it is also due to his own personality; his own work; his own achievements. Mostly, it is due to the fact that Yaakov never gave up. He underwent trials and difficulties. He was hated by his own brother; deceived by his own uncle; and forced to work for the latter for 14 years. And yet, because he knew G-d was with him, he persevered. And he found success; he married the woman he loved; he fathered the 12 tribes of Israel; he amassed land and property; he made peace with Laban; and he reached the Holy Land. Spiritually, Yaakov was also a success. It’s easy to attribute this to his position as a Patriarch, but in truth, every Jew is as Holy as Yaakov (or, for that matter, Moshe Rabbenu).

Instead, his spiritual power and accomplishment stemmed from the same trait as his material success; perseverance. He persisted. He prevailed. He strove to constantly reach new spiritual heights. Whatever you want to call it, Yaakov did it. He simply would not give up. Having been chased out of home by one’s brother, made to work for seven years, or tricked into marrying the wrong woman, many would have simply given in. They would’ve had enough, and set aside the task they’d originally planned to complete. In many ways, this is perfectly understandable; but it is not the attribute of a warrior, or a winner. Or of Yaakov, who achieved the greatest things in his life through sheer persistence. When dealing with the difficulties we face in our lives, or when navigating the modern world, we are always told to live in the moment. This means to look to the current Parsha for advice.

Parshas Vayeitzei is very relevant to many people, and for many reasons. In fact, it strikes a chord with everyone who has ever persevered with anything. And that’s pretty much all of us. There’s hardly a person in this world who hasn’t faced some massive struggle, persisted, and won. Even the smallest struggles count. Perhaps it’s trying to track down a lost item; make a difficult journey; get a promotion at work; or even make shabbes in the midst of the chaos which rules our lives. These are all parallels to what Yaakov did. Yaakov’s determination ruled every part of his life, including his religion, work, and personal relationships. And these areas are relevant to all of us. We can all struggle with these areas, and we can all improve in them. And if the question is how, the answer is to look to the Parsha. To look to Yaakov. To finish what we start, but not to finish until we’re satisfied.

Currently, we’re in the month of Kislev. Kislev is a month of illumination. This may seem counter intuitive, considering the days are getting increasingly shorter and the weather increasingly colder. If we’re to have a month of light, why not in summer? The answer to this question is simple. Kislev is not a month of light; it’s a month of illumination. Illumination occurs when we bring light into darkness; when we dispel darkness. This can’t be done if it’s already bright. In part, this is achieved by two festivals, namely Yud Tes Kislev and Chanukah. But as always, it’s up to us to make the effort. We can’t simply be done with it; like Yaakov, we have to strive for improvement. And once again, it’s Yaakov who holds the key to illumination.

If we want to illuminate the world around us, when both the sky and the global situation (war; division; anti-Semitism) are dark, we’re going to need to work hard. We’re going to need to light Chanukah candles and shabbes candles. We’re going to need to give tzedekah, and perform mitzvot, and help those in need. If we want to bring light into the world, it’ll involve physical action. Visiting the sick. Feeding the poor. Helping the needy. And of course, this isn’t easy. Sometimes, it’ll seem impossible. So what do we do? We turn to the Parsha. We read of Yaakov’s struggles, and challenges, and, ultimately, successes. And we learn from this. And we act upon it.

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