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"And Ya'akov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; and the whole age of Ya'akov was a hundred and forty seven years" (Bereishis 47:28).
It seems strange that after the Torah described in so much detail all of the trials and tribulations in Ya'akov's eventful life, it sums up the best years of them, the period of tranquility, in one half a sentence.
Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita, in his book Aleinu Lishabeach, explains to us what life is all about. In Parashas Noach, 5762, we brought the Ramchal who explains that Hashem created Man with the sole intention of bestowing loving-kindness upon him. However, lest Man taste the "bread of shame," Hashem gave him jobs to do so that he may "earn" his reward and not feel the embarrassment of a beggar who gets a free handout. Therefore, Hashem placed Man in this world and gave him the Torah and mitzvahs, so that he could spend every moment of his life acquiring more and more credits for his ultimate reward in the World-to-Come.
In the Talmud (Berachos 5a), the Sages taught the concept of "Torments of Love." Rashi explains that when Hashem loves someone, He torments him in this world, although he has no sin deserving of this suffering, with the express intention of giving him more reward in the World-to-Come than he actually merits.
What this means is as follows. Let us take, for example, the mitzvah of putting on tefillin. In Hashem's "scorebook," so to speak, there is a value of how much reward is paid for the donning of tefillin. Yet it is very possible that two men put on tefillin this morning and one of them got much more reward than the other. Why is this so and how is it fair? The answer is that there is another element which is included in the calculation of a person's reward. The Sages taught (Avos 5:22), "According to the pain is the recompense." That means that if one has a headache, but, nevertheless, he puts on tefillin, he will be rewarded much more than someone else who did the exact same mitzvah but suffered no, or less, inconvenience when performing it.
How much more reward does he get? In Avos D'Rabi Nosson (chapter 3:6) it says that he gets paid one hundred times more! That means that if a person learns one page of Gemara under difficult circumstances, he will be paid as if he had learned one hundred pages. Sounds lot a great deal, doesn't it? Well, it is. It's like a fantastic end-of-season sale. Now imagine someone going to the department store the day after the sale ends because yesterday it was too problematic to come. They will surely sell him the merchandise he requests but only at the regular price, because now the sale is over! The same applies to serving Hashem. One who argues that he cannot go to learn or to pray or to perform some other mitzvah because it is difficult for him at the moment but he'll do it the next day when it's more convenient will likewise receive only the regular reward; not one hundred times its value. (Of course, if one is really ill then it is a mitzvah to nurse himself back to health and for that he will be rewarded even though he cannot perform other mitzvahs properly.)
This is why the Torah describes the difficulties in Ya'akov's life in great detail and the tranquilities only briefly. Instinctively, a person wants to live a comfortable, enjoyable life. The reason he has that nature is because that is, indeed, the ultimate goal of his very creation. However, the place for that serenity is in the World-to-Come. Here is the place to strive for that goal and the more we work, and the harder we work, the more we will enjoy the fruits of our labors later.
With this attitude, we will consider hardships opportunities to achieve one hundred times more than the actual value of our service and we will feel as good as one who bought something fabulous at a fantastic sale price, rather than feel broken and depressed because of our suffering. With this mind-set we will always be truly happy, in this world and in the World-to-Come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network