No Pain, No Gain

January 4, 2017 at 1:09 AM , , ,

“…Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for there i will make of you a great nation. – Bereishis 46:3

אַל תִּירָא מֵרְדָה מִצְרַיְמָה כִּי לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל אֲשִׂימְךָ שָׁם – בראשית מו, ג

As Yaakov and his family made their journey to Egypt, G-d appeared to Yaakov and told him: “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation.” What was Yaakov’s concern that G-d was addressing? Why was it necessary for G-d to tell him “Do not be afraid”? Rashi explains: “Because he [Yaakov] was anguished that he was compelled to leave [the Land of Canaan] and go abroad.”

A careful reading of Rashi’s words indicates that Yaakov was not only afraid of what his future in Egypt held in store, but also anguished about the very fact that he was leaving the Land of Canaan. Nevertheless, we do not find that G-d addressed Yaakov’s anguish. G-d tells him only not to be “afraid,” because his family will emerge from Egypt even stronger than when they arrived; Yaakov’s distress over leaving the Land of Canaan, however, was evidently still justified. Moreover, Rashi’s words can be interpreted as hinting that the reason that Yaakov need not be afraid of descending to Egypt was, in fact, “because he was anguished that he was compelled to leave and go abroad,” for his anguish would guarantee that his family would thrive there.

NO-PAIN-NO-GAIN

Yaakov’s resultant mix of emotions, confidence in G-d’s promise despite anguish over being exiled from the eternal Jewish homeland, are emblematic of the paradoxical feelings that the Jewish people must have toward galus, our state of exile and subjection to foreign rule and influence until the coming of Moshiach.

On the one hand, we must not be daunted or overwhelmed by the intensity of the galus, because knowing that we were exiled solely by G-d’s will, we can be certain that G-d has endowed us with the strength necessary to overcome any challenge to His service that galus presents. On the other hand, we must never become comfortable with our state of exile. For it is precisely our distress and discomfort with our galus conditionthat gives us the strength to truly transcend its awful darkness, and not to be frightened by its challenges at all.

—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 30, pp. 234-235

 

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