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The Crown of Halacha

Vayigash 5777 – How Old are You?

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Bereishis 5777

How Old Are You?

And Yoseph brought in Jacob his father and set him before Pharaoh. And Yaakov blessed Pharaoh.  And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’  And Yaakov said to Pharaoh: ‘The days of the years of my sojourning are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.’  (Bereishis 47:7-9)

A Strong Leader Recognizes Wisdom

In last week’s Parsha, after Yoseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream, Pharaoh praises him to the nation, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom resides the spirit of God?” Furthermore, Pharaoh appreciated Yoseph’s wisdom so much so that he appointed him ruler over all Egypt. Only Pharaoh himself held a higher position. Pharaoh viewed Yoseph as the wisest man he had ever met. In fact, he claimed Yosef was the wisest man, bar none.

The Greatest King Meets the Wisest Man

In this week’s Parsha, Pharaoh is about to meet Yoseph’s father. Yaakov is the one who raised Yoseph and taught him all his wisdom. Pharaoh must certainly realize the greatness of Yaakov and the importance of this meeting. In essence, it can be described as the most powerful king meeting the wisest man. It is a historical meeting that has the potential of changing the path of mankind.

Does Age Make a Person Wise?

Doesn’t the above conversation appear perplexing? Why would Pharaoh ask such a seemingly trivial question as “How old are you?”  at such a momentous occasion? And even more surprising is Yaakov’s answer, “I am 130 years old. They were few and bitter compared to my fathers.”

Define a Day in Your Life

Obviously, we have to look deeper into the dialogue.

R’ Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains. Pharaoh asked, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” The word ‘days’ is extra. Pharaoh was really asking, “What percentage of your life was truly worthwhile? What did you do each day that could be really counted as a day of life?”

Yaakov answered on two levels:

1)  We Are All Just Visitors Here

When he said, “The days and the years of my sojourning are 130 years,” he was referring to the material world, which is a temporary world. In this world, he compared himself to a visitor on a journey.

2)  Accept That Life is Difficult

Afterward he spoke of the eternal world. He said, “My days of spiritual growth were few, from the bitter came the days of my eternal life. And I have not achieved the spiritual growth of the days and lives of my Fathers (who achieved great heights through overcoming tremendous challenges).”

Is Life Worth Living Without a Struggle?

In essence, Pharaoh asked Yaakov, “What is the secret to attaining eternal life in the next world?” Yaakov answered, “It is a difficult task, one that involves struggle and overcoming hardship. Furthermore, you may see me as the greatest of our generation yet I am nothing compared to my Fathers before me!”

We Are All Challenged in Ways No One Sees

The secret to attaining eternal life is overcoming our personal hardships. If we want to be spiritual champions, Hashem is going to train us. He’s going to give us tests to make us stronger. To triumph over pain, to conquer despair, to control our behavior and to continually deepen our commitment and service to God is the way to becoming a Hero. May we be blessed with the strength and desire to prevail!

 

Series Navigation<< Miketz 5777 – Who Are YOU?Vayachi 5777 – My Sword and Bow >>
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