Have you ever run a marathon? A half?
I ask because I recently completed my seventh full marathon, and I hated the entire experience. In fact, I actually hated all seven races; I was just embarrassed to admit it.
After the first five miles of adrenaline and fun, the miles seemed to take forever, and by mile 13 I was wondering why I even had come up with this crazy idea to begin with. When I finally got to mile 26, I was sure that this was the last time and I am going to retire from this crazy hobby.
You’re probably thinking, “What took him so long to realize this?”
I figured if everyone was doing it, there must be something to it. “A method to the madness.”
After taking a few months off from racing, I realized I totally missed the point!
You see, the Torah tells us in this week’s portion of Vayechi that “Jacob lived for 17 years in the land of Egypt.”
Our commentaries tell us that the Torah is pointing this out because these were the best years of his life!
Considering Egypt was the darkest spiritual place to dwell in that time, how is it possible that our forefather enjoyed that time so much?
The Chasidic masters explain that it is in the darkest of times when our deepest and our most core strengths are revealed.
Jacob knew before he went down to Egypt that he was going to have to plan ahead, and he sent Judah to create a spiritual oasis in the land of Goshen. By being aware of the challenges of darkness he was able to tap into his powers of light and turned those years into the best of his life.
Now I get it!
The marathon is not about having a fun time. Rather, it’s about having a hard time, a challenging time.
When the pain comes at mile 13, I know now that it is the feeling of weakness leaving my body and that I have become so much stronger.
Even if you don’t run, I bet you can relate my challenge to something in your life — because life is a marathon and the goal is to turn the challenges into happiness, to reveal the light in the darkness.
Thank G-d, I now know that I can overcome whatever challenge may come my way and turn it into light.
May we all have the strength to overcome such challenges. PJC
Rabbi Ely Rosenfeld is the director of Chabad Fox Chapel and the Jewish Relief Agency of Pittsburgh. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.