Parshas Vayechi – and he lived – on one side doesn’t seem like a Parsha that is about life. It includes both the passing of Yaakov and Yosef, two tremendous Tzaddikim that despite all the suffering in their lives made it out on top. This is not necessarily the Parsha of their life, rather it’s the Parsha of our life. Where the children of Yaakov received blessings for their future, for our future. Where we learn how to live our life lacking the presence of great leaders such as Yaakov and Yosef.
When Yaakov blessed his grandchildren, Menashe and Ephraim, he blessed them; “may they increase in the land like fish” (49:16). Taken literally this blessing doesn’t make much sense, because how is it possible for fish to live on land? Yaakov’s blessing was a blessing to show us that even when we are out of our element, when we are out of our comfort zone, we can still prosper and connect to Hashem perhaps in a way we may never have thought of if we weren’t on “dry land”. The Torah tells us that Yaakov enjoyed his years in Egypt the most. How could such a great Tzaddik have such joy in Galus, in the darkness? For in the Galus Yaakov was faced with being out of his comfort zone, and because of that he was challenged greatly, giving him a chance to have achieve a level of Avodas Hashem that if he was not challenged he may never have reached. His blessing to Menashe and Ephraim was focusing on what we can do to bide the time in our Galus, not only to survive in the Galus, but rather a lesson on the great spiritual growth a person can achieve when they are challenged and walk out successful. Menashe and Ephraim only knew life in Galus yet they achieved such greatness because they were able to understand their purpose in the darkness of Galus and work to be a light that illuminates the life of other Jews who need to find their chance to succeed and come closer to Hashem. Even now, the Jewish people prosper on the dry land. Yet sometimes things seem particularly dark, and we have such a difficult time perceiving the light of Hashem in this world. The purpose of this perceived concealment of God is to train us to look for God, to see His presence in the darkest corners of our Galus. We do our little bit every day to serve Him, but when faced with a choice to do more to serve Him we might unfortunately turn it down because we hit our boundary that limits our Avodas Hashem. That is our challenge in Galus, do we resign and sit in the darkness because the light we so greatly desire is just beyond our reach, or do we push harder and achieve greatness in the midst of darkness, giving us a glimpse of the great illumination that is to come soon in our days.