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    No free lunches – Vayyechi

    With this parashah we come to the end of B’reshit.

    The book covers an immense sweep of centuries from the Creation to the eve of the Egyptian enslavement.

    The next book, Sh’mot, also commences with creation, but this time it is the creation of the people of Israel.

    Their national identity was forged in shared suffering and led to the joy of the Exodus and the Revelation at Mount Sinai.

    The daybreak came after dark night.

    A dream of liberation often has to be maintained over a long period of anguish: there is no ecstasy without agony.

    We are tempted to echo “Fiddler on the Roof” and say, “God, I know we have to weep before we can laugh, but can’t You choose a different way for a change, and let us laugh with having to cry first?”

    An answer is suggested by Rabbi Akiva’s remark that God decided that all His gifts – the Torah, the Land of Israel and the World to Come – had to be won through suffering (Sanh. 101a).

    Akiva is not merely counselling patience and urging us not to give in to despair. He is also assuring us that blessings are not a free lunch, that we have to work for six days in order to rest on the seventh.

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