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20/20 Foresight

Friday, 1 January, 2021 - 5:42 am

As the clock ticked twelve last night, folks all over the world were eager to usher in the year 2021. Perhaps, more precisely, they were enthusiastic to say goodbye to 2020.

Pining for a healthier world and a life that once was, so many are pinning their hopes on life getting back to somewhat normal somewhat soon.  Millions of people couldn’t be happier to discard 2020 to the wayside.

But, should we?


This week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, is also the conclusion of the first of the Five Books of the Torah, Bereishit. It ends with the death and burial of Yosef (Joseph), the Jewish viceroy of Egypt.

Although he was buried in Egypt, he demanded that his family promise to reinter him in the Holy Land when they travel back to Israel. Indeed, over 100 years later, Moshe carried Yosef’s bones out of Egypt during the Exodus.

With Yosef’s burial an era had ended.

The next book (Shemot) begins with the terrible saga of Jewish enslavement in Egypt.

Why does the Torah end the Book of Bereishit on a sad note? It could have easily left off with Yosef, a Jewish man, running the country – and left his death and burial in Egypt as part of the next book. The Torah is not a movie, seeking drama and suspense. Each book has a theme. Why start the depressing reality of Jewish misery before we even get to the Book of Exodus?


We always have a choice how to view life. We can look at the glass half empty or half full.

In truth, however, both of those assessments are wrong. It’s an entire glass. The entire glass has purpose. Sometimes, its purpose is fulfilled when it’s full. Sometimes, when it’s only half full. And, sometimes, when it’s entirely empty.

Even an empty glass serves a purpose. At times, its purpose is simply to be available for filling. Or, to help us appreciate the fuller glass. Or, any other reason.

When the Jews were in Egypt, it would have been very easy for them to view their suffering in exile as an endless – and worthless – experience. Despair and despondency could easily become the theme of the day.

There was one thing that constantly reminded them that this was not home. That, one day, life would be better.

It was Yosef’s temporary coffin. It continuously pushed the Jewish people to believe in better days ahead. G-d would redeem them and they would finally be able to fulfill their pledge to bring Yosef’s body back home.

Instead of Yosef’s coffin serving as a sign of defeat, it served as a sign of hope and faith.

The first book of the Torah ends on a high note. It concludes with a resounding promise that we must never resign ourselves to the status quo. It can, and will, get better.

Subsequently, the status quo is a meaningful step in the process.


As we look back at a year that has redefined “20/20 vision” we might do well to ask ourselves what reminders and icons have we put in place so that we are not just getting “back to normal.”

The Jews in Egypt were buoyed by their knowledge that this sojourn was leading to a brighter future. Indeed, it led to the birth of their peoplehood, the covenant of the Torah and their return to the Holy Land.

Today as well, let’s gather the wonderful lessons we learned during the past difficult and trying year – things like compassion, humility and responsibility – and use them as catalysts to ensure that we never get back to normal.

Instead, let’s create a better tomorrow than was ever imaginable.

Then, our 20/20 hindsight will also be 20/20 foresight for many years to come.

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