What happens when one want to dwell peacfully?

By Rabbi Asher Feuchtwanger

Former Shaliach in Chicago (2001-02)
Currently a teacher in Amit Science and Technolgy School – Kfar Batya

A person’s natural inclination is to live in the present and worry about what is happening here and now. However, sometimes we rise above this natural inclination, look ahead, and make decisions based on the future instead of the present.
However, our forefathers and foremothers – Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov – were different. Throughout their entire lives, they taken both the present and future into consideration – or possible even the present and eternity. For example, when Hashem appears to Avraham and says, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great… and all the families of the earth will bless themselves by you,” (Breishit 12: 2-3) and when a prophet says to Rivka, “Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger,” (Breishit 25:23) ,they cannot go on with their regular lives. They know that they are not regular and average people; rather, they are individuals who are beginning to build a nation that will change the entire world.
With this in mind, we can understand many acts and decisions in the lives of the forefathers and foremothers – they acted as they did in order to create an infrastructure for a nation that would be created from them in the future. For example, the forefathers’ desire to have children, Avraham’s decision not to take any of the spoils from the war of the kings, calling the mountain on which Yitzhak was supposed to be sacrificed “Hashem Yir’eh”, burying Sarah in a family burial site in Me’arat Hamachpelah, Rivka asking Yaakov to steal the blessings from Esav, building altars for Hashem next to Sh’chem and Beit El, burying Rachel on the road to Efrat, and more. All of these actions were significant in the present time and even more so for the eteranal future of the Jewish nation.
In light of this, we can also interpret a famous Midrash at the beginning of our prshaParshat Vayeshev, “Rabbi Acha said: When the tzadikim are dwelling peacefully and wish to dwell peacefully in this world, the Satan comes and claims, saying ‘Is it not enough what is set for them in the world to come, but they also want to sit peacefully in this world.’ For example, when Yaakov Avinu wanted to sit peacefully in this world, all of the troubles that happened with Yosef occurred“ (Breishit Raba 24:3).
After Yaakov returned from Lavan’s house, struggled with Esav, and kept his promise in Beit El, he wanted to live peacefully in this world, meaning he wanted to live in the present (“want to sit peacefully in this world“). When Yaakov lives solely in the present, he prefers Yosef over all of his other sons and ignores the burning jealously amongst his sons. When Yosef shares his dreams, Yaakov just tries to calm his sons’ jealously by saying that the dream is not logical, while keeping the dreams’ prophecy to himself and taking no further action.
As a result, “all of the troubles that happened with Yosef occurred” – Yosef was sold to the Egyptians, which then ended up causing the Egyptian exile and the fulfillment of the prophecy to Avraham at Brit Ben Ha’betarim: “Your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not their own – and they will serve them, and they will oppress them – four hundred years” (Berishit 15:13).
We can also connect the above to the holiday of Chanukah, which will begin next week.
The rebellion of the Maccabees could only have been led by people who live their lives with a consciousness of a Divine nation that has an eternal future. The Maccabees went out to fight against all odds because they understood that if they did not fight, the Jewish race may still remain but the eternal future of the Jewish people will disappear as they adopt Greek culture.
On the other hand, we could say that the decline of the kingdom of the Maccabees began when the leaders started to pursue their own narrow interests, as opposed to worrying about the eternal future of the Jewish people.
Personally, looking at the events in Breishit, the incidents with the Maccabees, and history of our nation teaches me practical conclusions about life as a Jew, a father, and an educator. I must live with awareness of how my decisions and actions will impact me, my family, my students, and my surroundings in the present and future. This is not an easy task, but it is the path paved for us by our forefathers and leaders across the generations.