Parshas Vayigash 2018: Showing Our Fear
Yaakov, was inconsolable after losing his dearest son Yosef. Twenty two painful years without his son and now with the paralyzing thought of possibly losing his second most beloved child Binyamin hanging in the air, his sons finally returned from Egypt with news. They not only reported Binyamin's safety but they told him that Yosef was ALIVE and the ruler of Egypt!
Although it took some convincing, Yaakov Avinu was ecstatic to learn that Yosef was indeed still alive. He was quite literally overwhelmed by the news and Rashi with other leading commentators explain, Yaakov actually suffered a cardiac arrest and needed revival.
Interestingly, the Midrash says after Yaakov heard the news (and recovered) he decided to go down to Egypt to see his son and then return back to Eretz Canaan (Israel). As it says, “And Yaakov said in his heart: I will go and see my son, whether the fear of his G-d is still in his heart….” (Sefer HaYashar). Hashem came to Yaakov and told him that he should move to Egypt and not return to Eretz Canaan.
Rashi quotes the Pirkei D'Rabbi Elazar saying, Hashem appeared to him because Yaakov, although overjoyed with the fantastic news, was grieved that he had to leave Eretz Canaan -the land promised to his forebears. Hashem told him, “Fear not to go down to Egypt....” (Genesis 46:3)
Was Yaakov’s fear of moving to Egypt and away from his home rational?
Yes and no.
Of course Yaakov had a strong justification in regretting the move away from the holiness of the promised land and into a land that was foreseen to be a mark of galus (exile) for his family not to mention the epitome of immorality. Hashem was not comforting Yaakov from leaving, because anytime a person is away from Israel he should feel a sense of loss.
However, Hashem was teaching Yaakov not to let this transition into Egypt intimidate him. For if he would learn to remain strong, he could pass this onto his family and equip them with the ability to overcome the galus.
Hashem only issues challenges that we are capable of overcoming. As long as a person is in the setting of a challenge, he is right then, in the perfect and most conducive environment to grow. This is nothing to be intimidated by. This doesn't mean that one should completely let his guard down. Making ourselves too comfortable or unconcerned with a challenge can lead to vulnerability for defeat.
What we learn from this is when we find ourselves in a situation of challenge, it’s natural to feel a sense of distress however, we cannot allow ourselves become engulfed in fear or hopelessness. Through our emunah (belief) and bitachon (trust) in Hashem we can be courageous. Then we will make use of our fear properly and overcome even the most difficult of challenges.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters