Vayeishev is a very interesting passage. We see Joseph as the teen-aged favorite of the Patriarch Jacob. This is the Torah portion that describes how Joseph got to into Egypt and the beginning of that part of our story. The Jospeh cycle is replete with drama, passion and challenges. But here is this week’s passage, we meet another challenge to us as we grow older. In the opening chapter, Jacob asks Jospeh to go and find his brothers. Joseph sets out to find them and meets, in 37:15 a “man”. This “man” (often interpreted as an angel) asks mah t’vakesh?” Or, what are you seeking? He does not ask “who”, but”what”? We speak about this verse a lot in some of the workshops we do. This is a powerful question, especially as we age. For, at this stage of life, what are WE seeking?
We are in the midst of changes. Our bodies, relationships, perceptions and awareness of time are all in the process of transition, maybe transformation! We have lived much, if not most of our life span. So we can ask, what are we seeking in this final stage of life? More “stuff”? Or more peace? More material possessions or more spiritual sustenance? It came to me that this question comes as a conclusion to issues we raised in the last two portions. Jacob dreamed his ladder and we asked who holds us up as we grow older? Last week we asked with what or whom do we struggle or wrestle, as did Jacob at the River Jabbok? And so this week the Torah asks what do we seek for the rest of our lives?
In his just published book “Old Man Country”, Tom Cole writes of the need to keep seeking as we age. He believes that agood old age “requires growth,which requires conscious effort and intention”. This is a very Jewish concept. What Torah and tradition remind us is that we are all on this journey called life and that seeking meaning and purpose is a life long challenge and that this challenge requires our intentional action to learn, to grow and to always keep asking the “why” questions. What are YOU seeking?
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.