Friday, December 06, 2013

There'e No Place Like Home

A Torah Thought for 
Parashat Vayigash
  By Rav Mordechai Rabinovitch
"Israel dwelled in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen, and they bought property there, and they were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly" (Bereishit 47:28). At first glance, one might be tempted to think that this verse is extolling the wonderful conditions that the people of Israel found in Egypt. No more famine, population growth, real estate holdings – an idyllic existence!
On closer examination however, this verse holds the roots of the future crisis in which the people of Israel will find itself. From the Egyptian perspective you have foreigners expanding their holdings and benefiting from special privileges in the royal house at a time when the rest of the country is being forced to sell all its possessions – the perfect conditions for xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
More importantly, from the Jewish perspective: Is this what is expected of the people of Israel? To set down roots in a foreign country and completely forget the Jewish homeland? Note that "they bought property there". But literally the term would seem to mean something like "they were taken hold of by the land" or became entrenched. In other words, the Jews fell in love with Egypt, and consequently forgot the Land of Israel altogether.
No wonder Jacob, sensing the danger, is adamant that he be buried in Israel, and Joseph too. But alas, it is too late to stem the tide. Have you noticed that when the seventy-strong Jacobite family comes to Egypt, the Torah (Bereishit 46:8-28) takes pains to list children and grandchildren. Obviously, when they first arrived, the grandchildren were easily recognizable as Jacob's family. But when this is repeated almost verbatim at the beginning of Shemot (1:1), only the sons are mentioned. Evidently, at that point, with the Jews already settled in Egypt, the grandchildren have assimilated and are no longer recognizable as Jacob's family (see Torah Sheleymah Shemot 1:68; Seforno Shemot 1:7).
Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon that continues to plague the Jewish people to this day. When Jews pretend that a foreign country is "home", this inevitably leads to assimilation on the one hand and expulsion on the other. When will we learn that to live as Jews, we must live in our only real home – the Land of Israel?

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