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News Year's Frustration

Friday, 3 January, 2020 - 2:03 pm

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Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash 

Have you found this week to be frustrating? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. So many people have all sorts of admittedly irrational high hopes for this time of year. Somehow they’re convinced that somehow everything would suddenly change due to being in a new calendar year.

Of course overnight change doesn’t get any easier; whether it’s a random night of the year or a night when we turn the page to a new year. Change remains hard. Life remains laden with the same baggage as before and it seems that our path is strewn with the same things that bogged us down before.

Is there any solution to this endless treadmill of life? Or are we destined to endlessly repeat the narratives of the past? How can we redirect this cycle?

There is a fascinating understanding of the narrative of Judah meeting his long lost brother Joseph described in this week’s Torah portion. Our portion begins with the words, “Then Judah approached him (Joseph).” 

Judah and Joseph are understood as representing two world views, two approaches with regards to how to engage the physical world we inhabit. Joseph was viceroy of the superpower of the time, Egypt. Joseph represents engagement with the world, with the intention of improving and elevating it. Judah, whose very name means submission to G-d, represents a complete dedication to G-d; conscientiously avoiding engagement with the surrounding physical environment.

Each mode has a strength and weakness. While Joseph has more chance of positively influencing the world, his mode of engagement also poses risk of being distracted and derailed by the concealment of the physical world. While Judah has less chance of being distracted or diverted by the world, his mode is less likely to elevate the world.

While they generally would represent two opposing worldviews, in this week’s portion, Judah approaches Joseph; they engage with each other. The secret to true success in life is embedded here in this first verse describing this historic meeting of the two brothers.

Life is heavy, it wears us down. Habits are difficult to break and it’s easy to get disillusioned. In order to successfully navigate our physical lives we need to be engaged spiritually as well. Judah approaching Joseph informs us regarding our attitude toward our physical lives; while we live physical lives, we need to ensure that we engage with and nourish our spiritual side. In fact, it can be argued that the spiritual side is even more important.

This is the secret to overnight change, whether tied to a significant date on the calendar or any other day of the year. Engage with your soul, tap into the spiritual and G-dly; this is the secret to incorporating significant and lasting change.

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