Stopping the Leaks

Jan 3rd, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
I recall a story about a man who was always tired and who prayed each day for more energy. His prayers were never answered, until one day, in a fit of despair, he cried, “Please, oh, Lord, fill me with energy! And God answered, “I’m always filling you, but you keep on leaking!”

I‘ve been thinking of that story as we have been studying Jacob’s life in Egypt and how he addresses many of the major themes with which he has struggled in “A Different Sort of Fear of Life,” “Not Waiting For the Monument,” and “The Fragrance of Permanence.” So far we have seen that, “Vayechi is the story of a man who lived every moment of his life, even in death and after!” And that, “Jacob used these final scenes to guide his children to sense the fragrance of permanence, not of death and its ensuing impermanence.” I believe that we will find that Jacob rarely “leaked” energy, a “death” experience, but managed to contain and expand the energy with which God filled him (“Spirituals 101,” and, “Mishlei-Insight and Application”):

“So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her (29:20),” doesn’t sound like the approach of someone thinking of death imposing limitations on life; had Jacob, as had Rebecca, Isaac, and Esau, been thinking of death, he could not have experienced seven years of waiting as just a few days!

The only period that seemed to drag on endlessly for Jacob was when he was mourning Joseph’s death, “Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.’ So his father wept for him (37:34-35).”

When Jacob was attuned to the eternal, seven years seemed like just a few days. He was inconsolable when he felt that he had “leaked out” the eternal; Joseph’s death meant that the family was no longer whole, and that he had lost his ultimate weapon against Esau (Rashi, 30:25).

Jacob sensed his eternal connection with Rachel the second he saw her, which is why he grabbed her and kissed her; he wept when he saw that they would not be buried together; that something was lacking in their eternal connection.

Jacob contained all the energy showered on him by God, except when he tasted the loss of the eternal; the taste of death, just as Adam’s loss of immortality affected everything he did; he lost his sense of living in the Garden of Eden, his ability to eat of the Tree of Life.

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