I recently met a nurse in a hospital who shared with me that she works for an agency that sends health professionals around the globe for short- and long-term assignments. She explained to me that she enjoys variety, and it suits her to change locations and assignments often. This way she never gets ensconced in one place and looks forward to the fresh feeling of working with new people in a new locale. Like the Jewish people, she makes the most of living in exile. While this has its perks, not putting down roots makes it difficult to raise a family and make strong and lasting contacts. When a family is truly connected to their place of origin, it’s not simple for them to pick up and leave.
In our Parsha next week after Yaakov has returned to live in the land of his fathers for twenty-six years, he astoundingly hears that his beloved son Joseph is still alive. Since the world is in a state of famine Joseph invites his father and brothers to live in Egypt in order to survive. Jacob is conflicted. He is loath to leave the Land of Israel, the promised land of his fathers, but for survival and to see his son Joseph once again, he must go.
When Jacob decides to leave, we see that G-d comforts him and says it will be ok.
Genesis 46: 2-3
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱ-לֹהִ֤ים ׀ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּמַרְאֹ֣ת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֣ב ׀ יַעֲקֹ֑ב וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אָנֹכִ֥י הָאֵ֖-ל אֱ-לֹהֵ֣י אָבִ֑יךָ אַל־תִּירָא֙ מֵרְדָ֣ה מִצְרַ֔יְמָה כִּֽי־לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל אֲשִֽׂימְךָ֥ שָֽׁם׃
God called to Israel in a vision by night: “Jacob! Jacob!” He answered, “Here.”
“I am God, the God of your father’s house. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation.
Jacob as well as his ancestors provide for us a template for how history will play out for us, and what our roles are. We learn from Jacob and all of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs how to live in this often confusing and chaotic world.
Like Jacob, the Jewish people throughout the millennia have lived across the globe settling in cities and countries throughout the world sometimes for centuries on end, yet time after time it has been our foretold destiny either due to anti-Semitism or expulsion to continually advance to new surroundings until we will see the heralding of Messiah when we will all return to our homeland, Israel and see the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the return of G-d’s presence in all of its glory.
This will be the final column of Shabbat Table Talk, as I am leaving this position starting this Shabbat.
I’d like to thank all of my colleagues and friends throughout Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey for their support and friendly spirit over the two and a half years I have served as the Scholar in Residence. I would also like to thank all of my readers for their feedback, questions, and friendship.
Shabbat Shalom and Many Blessings,
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein