Parshas Vayechi 5782
Yosef and Habit-forming
[Editor’s note: As a memory of my beloved brother Shaya, I would like to continue sending out his pearls of wisdom that he has shared with all of you in the past. For some of you this may ring a bell and for others it may appear to be totally new. May the learning of Shaya’s Divrei Torah inspire us to change our ways and thereby give an Aliya to the neshama of our dear beloved Shaya whom we miss so much. A special thank you to Aaron Friedman for always looking over the divrei torah.]
When Yosef came to visit Yaakov at the end of Yaakov’s life, Yaakov prostrated himself towards the head of the bed. Rashi tells us that Yaakov was acknowledging that his bed was whole, i.e. that all of his children were righteous; and that even Yosef who was the viceroy and had been sent into captivity [which were very difficult trials & tests] had remained a steadfast and righteous person.
The commentators ask why was Yaakov only acknowledging this now at the end of his life? Right when Yaakov came down to Mitzrayim, he saw that Yosef was a Tzadik, and hence he should have acknowledged it then? Why only NOW at the end of his life, after seventeen years in Mitzrayim did Yaakov acknowledge that [even] Yosef was a Tzadik?
The Meshech Chochma answers that Yaakov wasn’t just acknowledging that he WAS a Tzadik at the present time, he was acknowledging that now he knew Yosef would for sure REMAIN a Tzadik.
Why did he only acknowledge that now? The Meshech Chochma provides us with a clever insight and calculation to explain this.
Yosef was thirty when he was brought to Pharaoh. Yaakov came down to Mitzrayim after the two years of famine following the seven years of plenty. So Yosef was thirty nine when Yaakov arrived. Yaakov lived in Mitzrayim for seventeen years. That means that when Yosef came to his father at the end of his father’s life, Yosef was fifty six years old. The last Pasuk in the Parsha tells us Yosef lived for one hundred and ten years, which means he was just over the halfway mark of his life when he came to Yaakov. And the Gemara in Yoma tells us that once a person lives most of his life [i.e. more then half] and hasn’t sinned he won’t sin anymore. Therefore, explains the Meshech Chachma, it was specifically now that Yosef was past the halfway mark of his life then Yaakov was assured that Yosef would remain a Tzadik!
As a side note, we see from this Gemara a lesson about habits. Just as when one sinks into a bad habit, it becomes so hard to break out of it, so too with a good habit, it becomes very hard to break out of it. When we become accustomed to doing what’s right, it becomes easier and easier to keep doing whatever we are doing. It requires persistence and perseverance in the beginning but then it gets easier and easier as time goes on. And then there comes the time where the issue we were struggling with becomes a nonissue anymore, and our point of nisayon [challenge] moves on to higher and greater things, in our lifetime quest for ultimate success in Avodas Hashem.
May we all continue to climb our personal and unique ladders in life to serve Our Creator.
Have a great Shabbos!