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Survival Skills


To Whom the Mornings stand for Nights
What must the Midnights – be!
Emily Dickinson

The last time we met Jacob he was saying, “The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad have been the days of my life, and they have not reached the life spans of my forefathers in the days of their sojourns.” (Genesis 47:9) I would also be bothered if the first question the great Pharaoh would ask me was, “How old are you?” Perhaps the king was shocked by how old Jacob looked despite knowing that the man had believed for twenty-two years that his son Joseph was dead. Pharaoh thought he was seeing an ancient man and Jacob sensed that he had to explain that he had suffered a great deal in his life.

That Jacob was a survivor. The tension with Esau, the years fighting Laban, the tragedy with Shechem, his children’s battles, and the many years mourning Joseph, took their toll on the patriarch. Jacob was the most popular speaker on the “Dealing With Suffering” circuit. He would describe his suffering and how he survived and even thrived not despite, but through his suffering. But he was still a survivor.

The Jacob we meet at the beginning of this week’s portion is a man transformed. He is not longer a survivor, but a thriver, a man consumed with life. “Jacob did not die,” teach the Sages, because he lived, not survived, every single day of his life. Jacob refused to be defined as a survivor because he knew that his descendants would need more than survival skills to develop into a nation while serving as slaves in Egypt. He conveyed a message of living, not surviving. Jacob used to speak of his life as a sojourner, he now spoke of life as being fully present in every moment of every day.

People often ask me to speak about my numerous surgeries, years of suffering with terrible pain and illness, and close encounters with death. “How did you survive?” “How were you able to constantly smile?” I didn’t survive. I took a lesson from the pages of this week’s portion, and chose to enjoy life as life. How could I not smile?

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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