The name of a Torah portion indicates its general content and central theme.1

The word vayeishev implies settling down and dwelling peacefully. Thus our Sages2 comment on the word that “Yaakov sought to live in peace and tranquillity.” However, the general content of the Torah portion, dealing as it does with the sale of Yosef and the anguish this caused his father, Yaakov, seems to involve the opposite of peace and tranquillity.

Quoting the Rabbis, Rashi comments on Vayeishev : “Yaakov sought to live in peace and tranquillity, whereupon he was confronted with the ‘anguish of Yosef.’ The righteous seek to live tranquil lives. G‑d said: ‘Does it not suffice that the World to Come is established for the righteous; they seek tranquillity in this world as well!?’ ”

What harm would there be for the righteous to live tranquil lives in this world?

The desire3 of the righteous to live in peace refers of course to true tranquillity — not only physical rest but spiritual tranquillity as well. Now, it is true that true tranquillity, wherein no labor is required, prevails specifically in the World to Come, while in this world every second is to be filled with labor and accomplishment. However, the tranquillity which the righteous desire in this world is not freedom from labor and achievements, but rather the peace that would let them concentrate on pursuing their spiritual labor.

Thus, when G‑d says: “Does it not suffice that the World to Come is established for the righteous,” it does not mean that their request is improper. The implication is rather that serving G‑d in a state of utter peace is similar to the reward that awaits the righteous in the World to Come.

The same was so with regard to Yaakov. He desired peace and tranquillity so that he could serve G‑d unimpeded by physical hardships. The reason why he was beset by the difficulties and anguish relating to Yosef was because at that point in time he had yet to attain the state where this gift could be granted.

However, in the end his wish was fulfilled. After Yosef was discovered alive and well, Yaakov lived his final 17 years in a state of complete tranquillity.4

But we must understand the following. While it’s true that Yaakov in Eretz Yisrael was not yet ready to receive the blessing of complete tranquillity, why did he have to be beset by such tremendous anguish, the “anguish of Yosef” — a degree of pain far greater than any he had experience before?5

In fact, the reason that Yaakov merited complete peace and tranquillity in this world was because he had previously experienced the “anguish of Yosef.” That is to say: in order that Yaakov be elevated to so rarefied a level that he merit total tranquillity in this world, he first had to experience tremendous discomfort.

This is because spiritual service in a state of anguish and pain refines and elevates the individual to an even loftier level. This is in keeping with the saying of our Sages6 that only “when the olive is squeezed does it give forth its oil.”7 Thus, it was specifically through Yaakov’s spiritual service while he was experiencing the “anguish of Yosef” that he merited to later dwell in complete tranquillity in this world.

The reason the title of the Torah portion indicates tranquillity although its contents are full of pain will be understood accordingly:

Since it was specifically Yaakov’s service during these years of anguish that enabled him to merit tranquillity, the true content of the Torah portion is the eventual peace — something that could only come about as a result of the earlier trials.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, pp. 176-179.