The lesson is clear: to live is to grow. And so long as we can, we ought to continue to grow, each in our own way. Alas, all too often, we are overwhelmed by life’s challenges and we are filled with feelings of despair and resignation. Marriages get stuck in habitual patterns. Spiritual dreams are pushed aside. Self-growth is delayed. And mediocrity becomes the routine.Rabbi Allouche
“The greatest malady that can befall a person is that he or she stops growing,” my mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz once shared with me.
Jacob, our forefather, who takes the center stage of this week’s portion, epitomizes this trait. And even into his nineties, Yaakov did not stop to grow.
By that age, Jacob’s resume was quite impressive. Together with his wives, Rachel and Leah, he raised a sizable family, raising his children as model citizens and beacons of light in a dark world. He had also become a successful businessman who had amassed large amounts of wealth. And he had inspired a generation of students with the belief in One G-d.
But Jacob was never satisfied. For he too knew that “the greatest malady that could befall him is that he stops to grow.” So at the ripe age of 97, he departs his home, to tackle bigger and greater challenges, including reconciling with his brother Esau and moving back to the Holyland to plant the roots from which the nation of Israel would stem and blossom.
The lesson is clear: to live is to grow. And so long as we can, we ought to continue to grow, each in our own way. Alas, all too often, we are overwhelmed by life’s challenges and we are filled with feelings of despair and resignation. Marriages get stuck in habitual patterns. Spiritual dreams are pushed aside. Self-growth is delayed. And mediocrity becomes the routine.
I recall how my beloved mentor Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz shared with me, at the age of 79, that he had a list of many dreams that he wished to accomplish. In spite of his many superhuman achievements (which included making the entire canon of the Jewish library — the Bible, Mishna, Talmud, Maimonides, Tanya, and more – accessible to each and all), he then shared with me: “I am preparing for the next 170 years because I have a lot of work to do. Now if the Boss decides that he wants me elsewhere so I will have to move, but as long as I am here I have lots of things to do.”
The same is true for each of us. If we cannot prepare “for the next 170 years,” let us at least set goals, especially in our Jewish journeys, for the next year. Which Jewish topics would we want to study? Which mitzvahs would we desire to achieve? (Please share them with us here, MitzvahForRavAdin@bethtefillahaz.org, so we can include them in our Mitzvah Bank in loving memory of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz)? Which Jewish values will we aspire to introduce to our families?
Finally, let us ensure that our growth also expands beyond ourselves. Let us add kindness to a person that needs it, and goodness to a place that has yet to experience it.