Parashat Vayigash – Dreams Really Do Come True
Five years ago, I trained for my first triathlon. At the time, this felt like almost an impossibility. I was not in a regular habit of exercising and I could not run a mile without stopping. So, when I set out to swim 400 meters, bike 12 miles and then run a 5K, it felt like a huge hurdle to overcome. Three years later, I finished my first half Ironman (1900m swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run) and several half marathons. In order to get off the couch and into exercising, I needed a goal for motivation. After each race, I asked myself – what’s next? How do I keep going? I learned that striving for a goal is exciting, hitting one is exhilarating, but once the goal is met – it can be empty. Joseph, in Vayigash, is a model for thinking about how to stay motivated when we are lucky enough for a dream to manifest.
This week, Joseph’s literal dreams of rising to power comes true. His story begins two parshiot ago, dreaming of ruling over his brothers, followed by those same brothers leaving him in a pit to die, then being sold into slavery and put in jail. Here, it ends with him in a top leadership position in Egypt and reuniting with his family in a dramatic and tearful moment where he forgives their past actions because their behavior actually enabled his success. He explains, “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you.
At this point, Joseph could have said “mission accomplished” and lived happily ever after. Instead, he acknowledges God’s role in his path and then prepares for an even bigger challenge – saving Egypt from famine. He was at once humbled by God’s grace and empowered by his own success. He realizes this is not the end of his journey but just a stopping point along the way. My hope is that as we set and achieve goals for 2020 (or 5780) that we remain motivated by our successes and grateful for the help we receive along the way. Happy New Year and Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Jill Levy (She, Her, Hers)
Director, Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington, DC