My Dear Nemesis (You Gotta Read Genesis)
This Dvar Torah is almost like a continuation or a Part 2 of my Dvar Torah from Parshat Vayeshev. The link is below, so you can read it, if you haven’t already.
In this week’s Parsha, 70 souls from the Jacob’s house go down to Egypt in what is considered the beginning of the first exile.This exile is foretold to Abraham, earlier in the Book of Genesis.
וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה:
And He said to Abram, “You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years
The word used to describe Abraham’s descendants in exile is גר - “stranger” from the root ג.ו.ר . This root denotes temporary sojourning and is appropriately the base for the Hebrew word, stranger.
The exile in Egypt was supposed to be hard and uncomfortable. Abraham’s descendants were not to assimilate into Egyptian society, rather they would constantly have the stigma of being a Hebrew, they would constantly be different, be strangers. Egypt was not to be their home forever, rather, a stop-off on the way to the Land of Israel. Just as Egypt was a temporary living space, this exile, was also temporary.
This is seen even in the prophecy in Genesis, as the chapter continues
בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא כָּרַת יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת אַבְרָם בְּרִית לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ נָתַתִּי אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת
. On that day, the Lord formed a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your seed I have given this land,
As seen above, immediately after being told of his descendant’s exile and status as “strangers” in Egypt - a temporary living space; Abraham is told that his descendants will be given a land which will be theirs eternally, permanently.
In this weeks Parsha, Joseph’s brothers approach Pharaoh and tell him
. וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה לָגוּר בָּאָרֶץ בָּאנוּ
And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land,
Here, the brothers use the same root ג.ו.ר, denoting sojourning, temporary living. The brothers did not intend to remain in Egypt forever, and were content to remain “strangers” in Egypt whilst living there temporarily. In response to the brothers’ request, they were given the Land of Goshen, a fertile, comfortable area where they would be able to shepherd easily.
Later on in the chapter, the narrative says
. וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ וַיִּפְרוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד
And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen, and they acquired property in it, and they were prolific and multiplied greatly.
Two different verbs are used here י.ש.ב- denoting permanent living and א.ח.ז which also means settling and has a connotation of being tied to the land.
This verse shows us, that the group of 70 that came down to Egypt changed their intention of temporarily living there, and grew comfortable- wanting to live there permanently. Furthermore, they knew the Redemption would not be during their lifetimes, so they had no qualms about putting down their roots in Egypt.
Moreover, the second verb in the verse וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ with the root א.ח.ז shows the connection that the Israelites had to the Land of Egypt. They felt like they were held to the land and bound to it - a feeling that should only be felt towards the Land of Israel which is our אחזה (contextually translated as portion, but has the same meaning as its root - being ‘bound’ to the land). As the Israelites settled in the Land of Goshen, they permanently endangered themselves. They set the foundation of the danger that their descendants would betray their heritage and forget their true ancestry.
Today, many of us in the Diaspora have seem to forgotten that our exile is only temporary.
Rather, we have placed down roots and have settled in our host countries, easily assimilating.
Rather than being strangers and only living in the Diaspora temporarily, we have become comfortable, made these places our permanent homes and become “bound” to these foreign lands.
In the 21st century we not only still have the commandment and the responsibility to make Aliyah, but we have the opportunity and privilege to do so. Today, when the Land of Israel is in Jewish Hands after 2000 years of exile, we should be enthusiastic to become Israeli citizens, live permanently in our eternal homeland, be “bound to it” and contribute to our diverse society.
In this week’s Parsha, Joseph’s brothers leave the famine stricken Land of Canaan, in order to travel to Egypt to buy food.
Leaving the Land of Israel is serious, and not an issue to be taken lightly.
In fact, the Sages give 3 situations where it is permissible to leave the Land of Israel.
1. In order to learn Torah if one finds that he can learn better outside of Israel.
2.In order to find a suitable partner to marry.
3. In order to make a living and support one’s family.
Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 5:9)
Obviously, the brother’s temporary ירידה - (lit. going down. con. leaving the Land of Israel) is justified and fits into the third category - supporting one’s family.
When Joseph asked his brothers, from where they had come
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מֵאַיִן בָּאתֶם
And he said to them, “Where do you come from?”
the brothers responded strangely. Not only did they say from where they came, they also included the reason for their travelling.
מֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לִשְׁבָּר אֹכֶל:
"From the land of Canaan to purchase food."
Rabbi Zalman Sortozkin explains Joseph’s brothers responded in this manner as they were used to apologising whenever they left the Land of Israel. They also apologised this time before a “non-Jewish minister”, even though it is not a sin for a non-Jew to leave Israel. The second half of the brothers’ answer was an apology and an explanation as to why they left the Land of Israel (which in their case, was permissible).
The four words of the brothers’ answer teach us not only the severity of leaving the Land of Israel, but the privilege and the responsibility of living in the Land of Israel. Today, we have the opportunity and the ability to make Aliyah and live in Israel - and we should! Today, we don’t have reasons NOT to live in Israel.
For the first time in 2000 years, since the destruction of the Temple and the Roman exile, Israel is once again the centre of Torah learning. There are thousands of Batei Midrash, Shules, Yeshivot and Midrashot in Israel waiting for us to join and learn Torah.
According to recent Aliyah rates, Israel is soon going to hold the majority of Jews in the world. Are there any better places to find a Shidduch?
And finally, Israel has one of the largest and most developed economies in the world.This year, the unemployment rate in Israel has been the lowest it has been since the 80’s. Are there any better places to work? Any other places that will automatically give you Shabbat and Chagim as days off?
It’s time for all of us in the Diaspora to make Aliyah, join the In-gathering of the Exiles and prepare for the Redemption in our eternal homeland, the Holy Land of Israel.
כִּי אֶת כָּל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה רֹאֶה לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה וּלְזַרְעֲךָ עַד עוֹלָם:
For all the land that you see I will give to you and to your seed to eternity."
— Genesis 13:15
Don’t miss the boatBuild on high ground
If you can’t fight or flee — float!
For safety’s sake, travel in pairs
Stay below deck during the storm
Don’t forget that we’re all in the same boat
Don’t listen to critics - do what has to be done
If you have to start over, have a friend by your side
Plan ahead … It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark
Take care of your animals as if they were the last ones on earth
When things get really deep, don’t sit there and complain—shovel!!!
Remember the woodpeckers. An inside threat is often bigger than the one outside
Speed isn’t always an advantage. The cheetahs were on board but … so were the snails
Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something REALLY big