This parsha begins by recounting the years that Yaakov lived: one hundred and forty-seven. It is strange that being a great man (tzadik) he has lived so little, since both his father Ytzjak and his Grandfather Abraham were around 180 years old, and according to the Sages Yaakov should also have lived 180 years. So why didn’t he reach the age of his ancestors? The answer can be found in the end of the previous parsha that tells when Yaakov arrives in Egypt after leaving the land of Israel because of the famine. It is strange that the first question Pharaoh asks Yaakov the first time he sees him is: How old are you? What a strange question to start a conversation, right? Would that be the first thing you would ask someone you’ve never seen? Even less in the case of someone like Yaakov! If Pharaoh’s question seemed strange to you, look at Yaakov’s answer:
“The days of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and bad … and they have not reached the days … of my parents.” Wasn’t it enough just to tell him the age? What need did he have to tell Pharaoh about his misfortunes in life? Specialists say that there is a direct relationship between a person’s state of mind and their physical integrity. Yaakov had suffered a lot in his life: from the persecution of his Brother Esav to kill him and the deceit of his father-in-law Laban, to the disappearance of his beloved son Yosef and the rape of his daughter Dina. All those things had made him age to the point where the pharaoh noticed him older than normal, so he asked him his age! Yaakov immediately understood Pharaoh’s intention, and explained to him that it was the sufferings he had experienced in his life that had made him grow old. The Sages teach us something shocking: if we count the words that are in Yaakov’s answer, we will find 33, if to that number we add the 147 years that Yaakov lived, it gives us a total of 180 years, exactly the years that should have been lived!, but from heaven they were discounted for having “complained” to Pharaoh. However, why is the question that Pharaoh asked him (how old are you?) Included in the 33 words, if it is not part of Yaakov’s “complaint”? Also, is there anything wrong with telling someone about our problems? Not at all, in fact it is essential to tell our issues and sufferings to trusted people: friends, parents or professionals who can help us get out of the well. However, there is a big difference between that, and spreading our unhappiness everywhere, after all, what fault do others have to make them victims of our “bad vibes”? On the other hand, let’s not even think that Yaakov avinu behaved that way! But perhaps, due to his high spiritual level, the expectation of heaven in his meeting with Pharaoh was different, and perhaps he should have “concealed “a little more before a stranger like Pharaoh. In one way or another, the teachings for our lives are fundamental:
- If you don’t want to age quickly, avoid complaining too much.
- Be careful, because you don’t need to speak to complain, with a simple gesture you can ruin someone else’s day (especially that of a loved one).
- Like you, others also have problems, do not give them your heavy suitcase.
- It is essential to tell your difficulties to someone close to you so that they can guide you on how to get ahead.