A CAUSE FOR COCERN
After the climactic episode culminating in Joseph's revealing his true identity to his family, a message is sent to his father Jacob to invite him and the entire family to live under the protection of his long-lost son in Egypt.
After the climactic episode culminating in Joseph's revealing his true identity to his family, a message is sent to his father Jacob to invite him and the entire family to live under the protection of his long-lost son in Egypt. Upon receiving the message that Joseph is still alive and well, Jacob seems initially skeptical. After all, Joseph has been presumed dead for so many years. However, Jacob sees the official escort sent by the Egyptian government and the story starts to make sense. The undying hope of any parent was easily triggered when offered even a slightly plausible scenario, which implies that a lost one has been found and is doing well. Accordingly, Jacob loses his skepticism and builds up an anticipation of seeing his dear son Joseph once again. It seems Jacob, without really thinking, jumps at the opportunity to see his son, for the excitement simply overwhelms him.
On his journey down to Egypt, Jacob offers a sacrifice to Hashem. Understandably, any devout person would recognize the debt of gratitude and would show some sort of appreciation. However, Hashem responded in a surprising manner. Whereas Jacob seemed to be thanking Hashem for this fortunate turn of events, Hashem's response was, "I am the Lord of your father Isaac, do not fear in descending to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there" (Genesis 46:3). Before Hashem told Jacob not to be afraid, it did not seem like he was. Jacob was excited to have a chance to see his son Joseph again and wanted to thank Hashem for giving him this opportunity in his life. Only when Hashem reassured him did Jacob realize that there was a cause for concern in going down to Egypt. The response that Jacob expected, if any at all, was probably more, "You're welcome" than "Don't fear." Why is Hashem telling Jacob not to fear when Jacob was not afraid?
Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, explains that, in truth, Jacob was afraid. Although, Jacob was excited to see his son, the prospect of leaving Israel to enter Egypt troubled him. Accordingly, Hashem told Jacob that this was all part of a grand plan to develop the great nation of Israel. This offered comfort to Jacob since he was reassured that this move would prove to help the nation in its historic mission to become the people of Israel.
However, the text does not reveal any concern that Jacob had in going to Egypt. Rashi is able to infer Jacob's concern by Hashem's response saying, "Don't worry." However, Hashem was telling Jacob that this move was, in fact, dangerous. Jacob should not think that Egypt presented no threats to the integrity of his expanding family. Hashem may be trying to convey a more complex message to Jacob.
When making a move of such significance, the consequences must be taken into account. A person can not only look to the single immediate goal. By taking the entire family out of its natural surroundings and moving into a completely different element, new influences will challenge the family. Not only will the family lose the security of the familiar, it will now face the challenges of the foreign. The only way for Jacob and his family to survive and even flourish is to recognize the dangers that lie ahead. Only with that sensitivity can a person fend off the danger while carefully accepting and incorporating the good of their new environment into their own personal lives. With this perspective, Hashem can comfort Jacob by saying that despite the dangers, as long as Jacob is aware that they exist and takes the proper precautions to protect himself, there is no cause for concern.
Micah Gimpel, a native Atlantan, is studying in an MBA program at Bar Ilan University in Israel.
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