Off the Pulpit: End goals and goals without end

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

There is a problem with the word “toldot.” It usually means children, or perhaps generations. But when the Torah says “These are the toldot of Jacob: Joseph” (Genesis Ch. 37) it does not list all of Jacob’s children.

There are two different kinds of life goals. One is achievable and has an ending. If your wish is to buy a certain house or to get a certain job, once it is accomplished your goal is complete. Many people, especially in mid-life, suffer a crisis less because they haven’t achieved their goals and more because they have, and the pursuit proved more satisfying than the attainment.

The second sort of goals has no end. Becoming a good person, building a relationship with a child rather than just having one, learning Torah – these are goals that do not have a clear finish line. You can spend your entire life seeking to be more educated and never be ‘done.’

Perhaps ‘toldot’ is intended to signal not Jacob’s achieved goal – the birth of children – but his continuing quest – shaping them into a people, Israel. Do not only seek goals you can achieve; seek goals that you are ever achieving and live without limits.

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