Don’t Make Yourself Too Comfortable

April 26, 2016 at 3:49 AM , ,

“…And he went down to Egypt” (Devarim 26:5)—forced by Divine decree…” –  (The Haggadah)

וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה אָנוּס עַל פִּי הַדִּבּוּר – הגדה של פסח

The Haggadah asserts that Yaakov descended to Egypt against his will, compelled by Divine decree. This statement seems self-contradictory. Yaakov, as we know, was devoted to G-d with all his being. If he knew that G-d desired that he move to Egypt, how could he be reluctant to oblige? Moreover, G-d assured him, “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will bring you up—you will also ascend” (Beraishis 46:4). Meaning, the descent to Egypt was only temporary and the heights that he would reach because of it would be great. With a future so promising, Yaakov should have been eager to go to Egypt! Why does the Haggadah say that he felt “forced”?

Don’t Make Yourself Too Comfortable

The explanation is that although Yaakov was happy to do G-d’s bidding, nevertheless, his descent to the debased environment of Egypt was a constant source of discomfort for him. Despite the benefit that his descent to Egypt would ultimately bring, Yaakov never made peace with the great spiritual risk it currently posed for him and his family, even if its effects would be only temporary. Yaakov’s descent to Egypt at G-d’s command was therefore a source of distress, though, simultaneously, a cause for joy.

We, too, are destined by Divine Providence to be at times in situations that are devoid of holiness. Like our ancestor Yaakov, we must recognize the Divine mission that we have been assigned, and happily devote ourselves to infusing these environments with G-dly meaning. Nevertheless, in order to successfully elevate our surroundings, (and to ensure that they do not influence us,) we must never lose sight of the fact that such an environment is a “descent to Egypt,” it is a place where a Jew is inherently uncomfortable. We must always maintain the balance of fulfilling our G-dly mission happily, yet with a sense that our presence outside of a naturally holy environment is “forced – by Divine decree.”

—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 4, pp. 1218-1220

 

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