What is the goal in life for a Jew? To make the world a better place. This means a spiritual connection with G‑d, in all aspects of one's daily activity, and also the continual quest to immerse oneself in the beautiful teachings of the Torah.

It is sometimes quite difficult to achieve a healthy balance between, on the one hand, an active practical life, and on the other, being absorbed in the spiritual ideas of the Torah.

Some people go to one extreme, being so involved in their worldly affairs that they never have the patience to open a Torah book; others go to the other extreme, and try to avoid all practical activities, claiming Torah study as their sole task in life.

Our Parshah provides us with the example of our great ancestor Jacob. He particularly represents the ideal of Torah study. The Torah describes him as "dwelling in tents," which the Sages explain as the tents of Torah study.1 Further, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are described as representing the "three pillars on which the world stands: Torah study, prayer and good deeds."2 Abraham, manifesting kindness and hospitality, embodies good deeds; Isaac, who "prayed in the field"3, embodies prayer, and Jacob, the "dweller in the tents of study," embodies the study of Torah.

Yet although Jacob is seen as so intimately connected with Torah study, in our Parshah we see him working day and night with the flocks, trying to look after his growing family, who would be the foundation of the Jewish people, with a sense of spiritual purpose in his dedicated activity.

His wife Leah also provides an insight into this side of his character. When she gave birth to her sixth son she called him Zebulun, a word signifying "dwelling." She said "now that I have given birth to six sons, my husband will dwell with me."4 If Zebulun represents Jacob’s dwelling, we might expect his character to mirror that of his father. However, the later tribe of Zebulun was distinguished as businessmen who ran fleets of ships, and they provided for their brothers of the tribe of Issachar, who were noted as Torah scholars.5

We expect consistency in the details of the Torah. Why is the person who expresses Jacob's "dwelling" a figure noted for business activities rather than scholarship?

These points help us see a more rounded picture of Jacob. Certainly, he represents dedication to Torah. Yet he is also fully active in the world. In this Parshah we see him working day and night, which indeed is a necessary feature of Jewish life today. A person might be working at a business, making money to help his own family and also the Jewish community as a whole. Or he or she might be working dedicatedly to run a Jewish school, a synagogue, or any of the essential communal structures which require dedication, perseverance and sheer hard work, in order for them to exist.

Together with this dedicated effort, the person makes time in his week and inhis day for Torah study and also for devoted prayer. When he studies Torah, he indeed represents his ancestor Jacob, dwelling in the tents of Torah. Yet when he works hard in the practical world, he is also following Jacob's example. Through combining both aspects of our great ancestor, he lives a balanced life and moves the Jewish people forward to a glorious future.

Then, with the coming of the Messiah, we will all be able to fulfill the essential ideal of Jacob's life, Torah study, and the whole world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d, as the waters cover the sea.6