This Shabbos we read Parshas Vayichi. In the Parsha we read of the blessings that Jacob gave his sons before he died. Each of the Twelve sons received a blessing according to his personal strengths and potential. In the blessing of Yissachar, who was the tribe leading in the study of Torah, we find an interesting expression. And he (Yissachar) saw that rest was good, and the land that it was sweet. And he bowed his shoulders to bear,…. (Genesis 49:15)
Rav Yeruchem Levovitz, zt”l, explained this analogy with the following question. Why was it that the Torah was given on a desert? If one of the absolute requirements for the study of Torah is peace of mind and calmness, why was Torah given in the desert? Wouldn’t it be better to receive it in a beautiful oasis where there were beautiful fruits and all sorts of delicacies?
The idea is that Hashem was teaching us a lesson in being able to live a life that involves doing Mitzvohs and studying the Torah. It is true that it is essential for one to have peace of mind. However, peace of mind does not come from having a Lexus, going on a cruise in an ocean liner, or a vacation in the Alps. True peace of mind is dependent on the state of mind of the person. If we are aware of exactly what our goals in life are, what we have to do, and how to accomplish them, then we can feel true piece of mind. All life situations are simply vehicles for us to get to our goals.
When soldiers are trained, they are not given physical treats and pleasures to get them to be calm even in a situation of war. They are given very rough living conditions to be prepared for all types of challenges. When they are trained with a mindset that their entire goal is to win the war, then the circumstance that they find themselves living through is not of much consequence. All that matters to them is that they are successful in the big challenge in front of them. They thus become conditioned to having proper peace of mind even in the most difficult of circumstances.
This is supposed to be our mindset in regards to doing mitzvohs and the study of Torah. True, there is much we could do and enjoy as far as the pleasures of this world. However, it is not these pleasures that are our goal in life. If we can bear in mind the big picture, the goal of what we are striving for and trying to achieve, then we will not let ourselves become distracted. We won’t allow ourselves to get uptight if we miss a ballgame, we won’t get depressed if we don’t have the fanciest car, we won’t let ourselves get frustrated if we can’t afford the most elaborate vacation package. Instead, we can enjoy our drive to study and know more Torah, to connect to Hashem through prayer, and to help our fellow Jew in every way possible. This gives us true calmness, peace of mind, and happiness, as we meet our true goals in life.