Saved from Exile (Vayigash)
The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility. -Vaclav Havel
After twenty-two years of mourning, Jacob discovers that his beloved son Joseph is alive. Not only is Joseph alive, but amid a global famine Joseph is also the Viceroy of Egypt and the man in charge of the world’s supply of grain. Joseph, with Pharaoh’s blessing invites Jacob with his entire family to relocate from Canaan to the land of Goshen, the most attractive area in Egypt.
Jacob leaves Canaan with the whole family. The night that he is about to cross from Canaan into the Egyptian lands God appears to Jacob. God tells Jacob not to worry:
“Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
The Chidushei HaRim on Genesis 46:4 wonders as to the unusual phrase that “Joseph’s hand will close your eyes.” Why is that good and how does it comfort Jacob?
He explains that one of the defining aspects of Joseph was his fortitude to withstand the enticement of Potiphar’s wife and to remain holy and dedicated to God’s precepts. Whenever that aspect of Joseph is present among the Jewish people and they find themselves in danger or exile, it is Joseph’s “hand” that will protect and save them. It is the commitment to a higher standard in our relations that will call down a higher level of divine involvement. God in a sense is telling Jacob that Joseph’s strength of character will ensure that his descendants will return to their home from the Egyptian exile.
The concept of family purity, of correct monogamous relationships, of not wreaking havoc on the bonds of marriage invokes Joseph’s great power and merit. That merit affords us an added measure of intervention, of taking us out of the dangers and personal exiles we find ourselves in.
May we cherish the bonds of marriage and merit to be redeemed from our exiles.
To the memory of Rabbi Gideon Perl zt”l, Rabbi of Alon Shvut and Gush Etzion.