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Rabbi’s Blog: Destiny & Descendants

12/30/2022 11:14:42 AM

Dec30

Dear OZ family,

 

Twenty two years after Yaacov identified his son’s blood-drenched tunic, he was informed that Yosef was not only alive, but that he was ruling in Egypt. Yaacov’s heart went numb, and right after he recovered, God came to him with a reassuring promise. This promise constitutes the last time that God would speak to Yaacov, just as he was leaving Canaan. The communion begins with God calling Yaacov’s name twice, an expression of affection.  (It is interesting to note that the very last time God spoke to Avraham, God also called his name twice. This is in contrast to the only other Tanach characters who were called twice by God, Moshe and Shmuel, who were called so in their very first Divine communication). The promise to Yaacov begins with an exhortation not to be afraid to descend to Egypt because all the promises made to his father and grandfather will be realized, all the way until the time when they will leave Egypt.

 

We all know that when we are told not to be afraid that there must be a good reason to fear something. Yaacov feared that the fleshpots of Egypt may adversely affect his children and grandchildren. They went with the intention “Lagur”, to sojourn in Egypt, and remain as strangers. But in the end, as the last verse of this Parsha indicates, they resided there “Vayeshev”, and they took hold of the land. The greater fear for Yaacov was not how his family would manage in a strange land, but what would happen when they manage all too well. When it was time to leave, Moshe didn’t say, “Let my people go”, as Charlton Heston said. Rather, Moshe said, “Send my people out” “Shalach et Ami”, and it wasn’t just so that we would have our freedom. That demand concluded with a call to serve God. We did not leave Egypt for freedom alone, but to receive the Torah, build God a Mishkan, and settle in our own land. This was how God’s promise to Yaacov was realized.

 

We live in very uncertain times, and history shows that we don’t fare so well in the midst of volatility. Yet we must take to heart that we are much more capable of determining our own destiny than any time in the last 2,000 years. Let us take to heart the last words we all say in shul on Shabbos morning, “Hashem li V’lo Eera”, “God is with me, I shall not fear”. Many people conclude the daily davening with a short prayer called, “Al Tirah”. It bids us to refrain from fear, to be sure that we will endure and to deny defeat. You may be 97 years old and fearful of what lies ahead. You may have daily worries, and concerns down the line. But God’s promise to Yaacov has always maintained us through exile, slavery and worse. Just 3 years after the worst suffering of any people in history, the Jewish nation rose form the ashes of the Holocaust to create a national and religious liberation movement and a successful government, that is nothing short of a breathless miracle. We took in refugees from all over the world, something 21 Arab countries could find no room to do for their own.

 

Yirmiyahu seems to have all this in mind when he spoke these words that were incorporated into the Haftara for the Parsha in which we would leave Egypt, Bo:

Fear not, my servant Yaacov, be not dismayed O Israel, for I will deliver you from far away, and your descendants from their land of captivity. Yaacov again shall be calm and serene, with none to trouble him.

No defeat!  Am Yisrael Chai!

 

Be well and healthy.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz

 

 

Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street

New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200

E-mail ras@ozny.org

Website:  www.ozny.org

 

 

Tue, January 31 2023 9 Shevat 5783