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Dvar Torah - Vayigash

The end of the calendar year is a time for reflection. We can look back over the past 12 months' labour, evaluating if they were productive and if we feel we achieved what we wanted. Hopefully, most years, we see them as a time of growth and expansion. Some years, the assessment is less rosy, often for reasons out of our control.

This past year feels like one of the less easy years. It seemed like we were emerging from the trauma of COVID-19, but we were immediately hit with inflation, a divisive national debate, and, ultimately, a war that threatens our loved ones and the State of Israel. Those stories are not merely news stories that we read about; they strongly impact our lives. They affect our psyche and sense of self; they make us feel less safe and less successful.

When there are so many adverse events, we should actively pursue a positivity bias. We should train ourselves to see positive things. We should reflect on the good in our lives. Doing so helps train our minds to see the positive more often and helps to bolster us against inevitable setbacks.

One way of building up a sense of the positive in our lives is to focus on when we end stories. The story of Yossef and his brothers presents a perfect example. Last week, the parsha ended with Yossef's chalice having been found illicitly in Binyamin's bag and all of Yossef's brothers seeingly about to enter slavery. However, the picture is entirely different if we move forward just one week. The family is reunited, and Yaakov lives the rest of his life in peace and prosperity. What a difference the passage of time makes!

2023 ends on just such a cliffhanger. The war in Israel continues to drag on, and there seems to be no end in sight. Outside of Israel, we feel threatened by the sudden rise in antisemitism that we have all experienced. However, we are very much in the middle of the story. We must maintain hope that the end will be better than the beginning. We must keep our hope and prayers for peace and safety for all Jews and all people. Above all, now is the time to recommit to approaching life with positivity and optimism, to keep using our time effectively and to maintain a healthy perspective on our lives.

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