Nowadays, many of us feel a need to “zone out” or “anesthetize” ourselves from the pressures of life. We’ll retreat to social media or any other mind-deadening activity to escape from feeling “too much” reality.

We’ve gotten pretty good at numbing our emotions, but do we ever consider what makes us passionate? What gets our blood pumping? What excites us and arouses our emotions? And, most importantly, how do we channel those deep feelings into positive action?

This week’s parshah,Vayigash, describes the heart-wrenching reunion between Jacob and his beloved son, Joseph. For 22 agonizing years, they had been separated, with Jacob fearing the worst. What will happen at their first meeting?

Joseph’s emotional response is expected; he falls on his father’s neck and weeps (Gen 46:29).

Jacob’s reaction, however, is unusual. He does not embrace or kiss Joseph. Instead, he recites the Shema prayer (Rashi, ibid).

Why did Jacob choose this profoundly passionate, heartfelt moment to occupy himself with prayer?

The Chassidic Masters explain: Jacob knew that never in his life would his love be aroused as it was at that moment. So he chose to utilize this tremendous welling of emotion to serve His Creator, channeling it to fuel his love for G‑d.

Imagine how many tears Jacob shed during those long, anguished years. Finally, he is reunited with a child who was torn from him during his tender teen years. As Jacob’s heart spills over with an overabundance of love and gratitude, he chooses to channel those feelings into prayer.

As a parent, I often wonder, when do our children see us express our passion? In what situations do they see us express great joy or grief?

Do our children see our regret over the huge sale we missed or the expensive dish that broke, or do they see us exult over the kindness that they just exhibited? Do they witness our weighted pressures over financial matters, or do they see our eagerness and delight in helping another? What messages are we giving them about what is truly important to us?

And, in our happiest (or saddest) moments, how do we channel our most deep-felt emotions? Do we use our moments of intense happiness to give thanks and appreciation to our Creator? Do we use our successes and good fortune to remember the plight of others?

As he descends to Egypt, Jacob enters his final chapter of life. He will now prepare his children for their destiny of becoming the nation worthy of receiving the Torah, with the ultimate goal of transforming our world into G‑d’s intended home.

Through his reaction at this most passionate moment of his life, Jacob imparts an essential message for us during our own life journeys, throughout our long exile.

He teaches us to ask: What makes us passionate, and how can we direct our greatest passions in the most positive ways?