Growing up, I remember adults talking about how when they got married they “settled down.” I always envisioned settling down as a time when life was in order, you were financially secure, kids were settled, and life just seemed to have a consistency. Little did I know that my vision of “settling down” was far from the truth. As a grown-up, I may have figured out my career, and I’m certainly not a free-spirited teenager anymore, but my life feels anything but settled. We just moved across the country, and there are daily challenges, changes, and fun to be had with a toddler by my side.
Our parshah this week, parshat Vayeshev, details Jacob finding his family and his way to a more settled lifestyle. Jacob’s sons are growing up, and the brothers begin their tormenting of one another. The text deals with the pain Jacob feels when he learns of the “death” of Joseph and continues with Joseph in Egypt while his brothers make a mess of their own lives. Jacob moves from feeling settled, having found a place to raise his large family, to feeling unease and unrest.
The Torah, however, ignores the unrest of Jacob’s life by stating in chapter 37, verse 1 “Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan.” According to Rashi, the great medieval commentator on our texts, the text is specific in using the word “settled” as if to say that Jacob thought he would finally settle down after all he’d been through, but events would not permit him to settle down.
Jacob so very much wanted to be settled. We often set goals, like “I’ll settle down when I’m married…” only to realize that even when we reach these milestones, life is still full of challenges and uncertainties. It appears that Jacob wanted to yashev, to sit, and let the world continue around him while he settled in for the long haul. As we see by the storyline of his children, that was not the case.
Our parshah teaches us that while we may want to sit and settle into one place, it turns into complacency when we let the world happen around us without actually participating. What we can do, however, is learn to be flexible and patient enough to always live our lives to the fullest, regardless of how settled we may feel at the time.