Yakov had a difficult life. He was not recognized by his father for who he was, he fled from his murderous brother, was an indentured servant to his swindler father in law, was betrayed by his firstborn, lost a wife in childbirth, and watched his sons fight bitterly to the point one went missing under mysterious circumstances.
Yet the Torah says that Yakov lived the best years of his life in Egypt – וַיְחִי יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם / וַיָּגָר שָׁם בִּמְתֵי מְעָט.
How could exile from his home in Israel turn out to be the best years of his life?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that like exercise, a dose of resistance training can do a world of good. By adapting to the resistance, we have become stronger. Yakov could be in exile and still recognize that his life had come full circle and he could live out his days in peace and tranquility – even when far from home.
At Seder, after quoting Yakov’s happy years in Egypt, we eat Maror sandwiched between Matza. Matza is the bread of freedom which is also the bread of affliction; because they complement each other. The Sfas Emes explains that we cannot celebrate being free without owning the fact we were slaves as well.
Setbacks and comebacks are the ebbs and flows of life. It’s simplistic to put a label on things in isolation – “this is good,” “this is bad.” Life is rarely black and white, and mostly a long continuum of grey.
There is no such thing as a life without its share of problems, and we can’t just go on hoping for this thing to conclude and move on to something else. They form one cohesive canvas of life and we have to be present for each moment.
The Jewish People have been in exile for far longer than they haven’t, yet we don’t harbor an end time fantasy at which point we will then become happy and live our best lives. There is beauty and goodness in the daily grind of today if we look for it. So become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Because the good stuff happens outside your comfort zone.