Genesis: The Book of Hope
As the book of Genesis closes, it’s worthy to grasp onto the lessons of hope contained within. Already, at the outset of creation, we see hope in failure. As the Rav points out, G-d created and destroyed many worlds before this one to give hope to man in knowing that he can err but can then recreate himself anew.
We read this week Vayechi, a term connoting life, even though it recounts death, the classic idea being that tzaddikim are alive even in their death. It gives great hope to man that a person like Yaakov, who might have endured the greatest suffering and been pushed to the limit, lives on forever. His battle was not a worldly one, but an eternal one. Furthermore, he gives life to his sons by combining rebuke and destiny in one, giving them a direction to know where they can excel. Such a lesson exists for today, in knowing that we must find where our talents lie and pursue that avenue.
Yaakov gave hope to others in knowing that honest work is an important virtue. The Rambam calls him a tzaddik in terms of him being a model of how to be a dedicated worker. And Yaakov’s battle with the yetzer hara gives his children hope in understanding how to deal with this great threat. Don’t ask the name of the yetzer hara. Don’t try to understand its ways as its cunningness is above our understanding. Just know that he attacks in a myriad of ways, in every conceivable notion, and that he can affect your standing in the physical world. To beat him is not to ask about him but to maintain defenses in every possible area.
We all want to be an ish matzliach like Yosef. What greater hope is there in becoming successful like Yosef? Where did his hope and salvation come from? From desiring to lift up the downtrodden. By asking a troubled baker and butler what was making them sad. Our success will come through knowing that hope comes through helping others, as the magnificent Yosef stood for such a proposition and rose to unimaginable heights.
We find that the greatest hope can come out of wretchedness. As all the brothers are found bereaving Yosef’s sale, Yehuda forges on and gets married. Yehuda found hope in action and Moshiach was born out of such courage.
We owe Yitzchak a debt of gratitude. Only someone so holy that he saw hope in sacrifice and whose ashes lay before the Almighty is ultimately able to help his children in securing their continuation. The Gemara (Shabbos 89b) notes that Yitzchak defends us to G-d in any shortcomings we might have. We all need an advocator, and Yitzchak is ours.
Yissurim are a gift from above. Any small inconvenience can wipe away sin. The Avot taught us to endure yissurim.
One of the six questions we will have to answer in the next world is “tzipitah leYeshua - did you await the salvation?” How can we be judged on such a seemingly intangible quality such as waiting and hoping for something? The answer is that hope is real and absolute. Genesis proves that one can find hope in suffering, helping others and realizing we have an advocate who welcomed sacrifice and whose ashes stand before the Throne of Glory.
The other Books of the Torah continue this message as Exodus instructs us to find hope in Divine Providence, Leviticus tells us to find hope in devoting our entire being to serving G-d, Numbers in its simplest terms conveys that every individual counts and that through using his talents, the nation as a whole has hope to thrive, and Deuteronomy informs us to review all lessons in hope learned previously with clarity and focus, so as to live every day with hope as our foundation. But it’s the Book of Genesis that lays the foundation for living a life saturated in hope and offers confidence in the fact that hope is a finite idea that can serve as the blueprint for day-to-day life.