| Parshah |

Fighting Fatigue

An example of Yaakov’s ability to utilize what strength he had


“And he arrived at the place and lodged there… and he lay down in that place.” (Bereishis 28:11)


Rashi explains that the words, “He lay in that place,” indicate that during the 14 preceding years, which he spent learning Torah in Yeshivas Shem V’Ever, Yaakov didn’t sleep or even lie down at all.

Is this even physically feasible? (Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Kovetz Sichos)

I think I was born tired. Why else would I have slept so much as an infant? I can’t remember ever not being tired in the last 20-plus years. Even now, with my youngest (usually) sleeping through the night, I’m still living in a constant state of exhaustion. It must be a bad habit. Me and Ernest Hemingway, who said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake.”

Take last Thursday. It was one of those nonstop normal chaotic days.

The mad scramble to get everyone out to school. Dishes, laundry, cooking. I sorted winter clothes and realized my teenager desperately needed a new coat. We went to four (yes, four!) different stores until we found one we both agreed upon. Great.

Got a phone call from school that my son stepped on a rusty nail on the playground. When was his last tetanus?

Put up supper, realized we had no milk for the next day’s breakfast. Ran out to grocery.

Served supper, started bedtimes. The minute the younger kids were asleep, I decided was more than ready for bed myself. And then I remembered….

The secret of Yaakov’s amazing fortitude was not a miracle. Rather, it was his ability to properly utilize all his strength.

We find a similar ability when Yaakov met Rochel for the first time at the well. The few assembled there were waiting for the rest of the shepherds to arrive to help roll a heavy rock off the opening of the well. Yet Yaakov rolled the rock off single-handedly, “like one who removes the stopper of a bottle” (Rashi, Bereishis 29:10).

This was also not a miracle, but an example of Yaakov’s ability to utilize what strength he had.

We mention Yaakov in Tefillas Geshem when we say, “Remember the one… [Yaakov] dedicated his heart and rolled a stone off the mouth of a well of water.”

His performance of a seeming miracle came from his ability to dedicate his heart to the cause.

I had scheduled an interview in Yerushalayim at nine that night! Nooo. Do I sound like I’m about to have a childish tantrum? Yeees. Because there was no way in the world I wanted to get dressed, put on a sheitel and makeup, and go out to Yerushalayim to meet someone for an hour to talk. Brightly? Animatedly? Coherently?

I must be sleeping, I thought. Because this had the makings of a nightmare.

We see this concept in times of danger, when a person can accomplish incredible feats that he generally can’t do.

Dovid Hamelech writes in Tehillim (119:162): “I rejoice over Your word as one who finds great spoil.”

The Chofetz Chaim comments that if a person knew he’d have access to great spoils and treasures at a specific time and place, he’d rally all his strengths to collect as much as possible.

That’s how we should feel about utilizing every moment. As it says in Avos (4:17), “Better one hour in this world of teshuvah and good deeds than all the life of Olam Haba.”

But I rose to the occasion. Got dressed. Sheitel and all. Drove to Yerushalayim with my eyes wide open. I think. Met the woman I was interviewing in her home in Har Nof.

And guess what?

We had a great time schmoozing and connecting. Total kindred spirits. We knew a ton of the same people. Plus, she was fascinating and captivating. I left feeling invigorated and knowing I’d made a new friend for life.

As I drove back home, I realized I was humming. And planning the article this interview would highlight. And wondering if I should put up tomorrow’s supper in the crockpot tonight. I was in the mood to try out a new recipe.

I was halfway to the highway when I realized I was wide awake and totally energized! And it was almost 11 p.m. What happened to my fatigue? My previous state of near-collapse?

Humbling admission: is it possible that much of my state of exhaustion exists in the state of my mind?

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 670)

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