Following Joseph’s revelation of his true identity to his brothers, the entire family comes down to live in Egypt. Upon Jacob’s arrival in the country, he is brought before Pharaoh, who asks him a strange question.
“How old are you?” inquires the king.
“My days in this world have been few and difficult,” responds the patriarch, “they have not reached the days of my forebears.”
The Daas Zekeinim explains that Jacob not only looked old, but acted old. Pharaoh reacted to this old man who walked into the room looking worn out and beyond his years, kvetching (complaining) and krechtzing (sighing) as he shuffled along slowly.
Rav taught: A sigh shatters half a person, as the verse in Ezekiel states, “Now, you, son of man, sigh! With the breaking of the loins and bitterness, shall you sigh.”
Rabbi Yochanan taught: Indeed, it breaks the entire person, as the verse continues, “It shall come to pass, when they ask you, why you are sighing. You shall respond concerning the message that came; every heart shall melt and all hands shall weaken, every spirit shall grow faint and all knees shall become like water.”
When you smile, the whole world smiles with you. When you kvetch and krechtz, nobody wants to be around you. Sure, Jacob had endured some hardship in his life, but he is criticized for making a bigger deal of it than necessary. You may feel a certain way, but why do you need the sympathy vote from everyone you bump into?
Some people have extremely challenging lives, but you’d never know it. You see them every day, every week and they’re smiling, cheerful, standing tall; only their closest relatives and friends know what’s really going on in their lives – the medical report, the financial troubles, the challenges with their children.
Sighing doesn’t make you feel any better. On the contrary, the prophet teaches us that it weakens the body. When you sigh, you resign yourself to defeat and your body follows suit. If, instead, you jump for joy, you awaken and release endorphins into the body and you begin to heal yourself from whatever is troubling you! What’s more, you inspire others to live their lives with happiness and passion – they think to themselves, ‘Wow, look at her. She’s dealing with that terrible illness and she’s still the life of the party! I had better fix my attitude!’
Sighing doesn’t help the situation. It only makes you feel worse. And it makes others around you uncomfortable. May you merit expressing jubilation even in your darkest hour, which will bring about healing and prosperity throughout your life!