Kenneth Cohen

Fighting With Enthusiasm

Parshat Vayeishev is always read during the Chanukah season. Perhaps one of the lessons of the Parsha, is connected to the Festival of Lights.

Many of the commentators discussed a serious mistake that Yakov Avinu made. He assumed that after successfully dealing with the likes of Lavan and Eisav, he was entitled to some peace and comfort.

Hashem wanted to show him that the place for such tranquility, was in the עולם האמת, the World of Truth. Was it not sufficient for Yakov to be receiving eternal bliss, that he also sought it in this world?

The message was אדם לעמל יולד, that man was born to struggle. He was to use all of his faculties, to try to get closer and closer to G-d. As long as there is breath within a human being, he is to try to go higher and higher.

In Yakov’s case, he was forced to deal with the loss of his beloved son, Yosef. He also needed to spend the last seventeen years of his life in the cesspool of Egypt, and not in Israel.
For the rest of Am Yisrael, there are constant battles that we must fight for our survival. This has been true throughout our history. We were not able to sit back and be complacent when the Greeks defiled our Temple, and tried to weaken Jewish values.

We are now fighting another battle of survival, where we must face the reality, that we cannot defeat our enemy with kindness. They are Amalek, and can only be defeated with might.
The Messilat Yesharim writes about a level of worship called זריזות, or alacrity. It speaks about taking initiative, and serving Hashem with enthusiasm and excitement. If one gives in to fears or self indulgences, he will become lazy and unmotivated. He will give in to his fears and anxieties, and accomplish very little.

Yakov was taught that he must never stop the struggle. The Macabbees learned this as they overcame the powerful Greek army. And our brave young soldiers of today, have demonstrated incredible motivation and resolve in eliminating today’s enemy. We are witnessing our modern day Chanukah story right before our eyes. We will once again see the victory over the טמאים, the impure, by the טהורים, the pure, and the destruction of the רשעים, the evil, by the צדיקים, by the righteous.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at