Vayigash: A Paradigm of Exiles
Parshas Vayigash heralds our people's first national exile. Avrohom Avinu was already told of it in the prophecy of the Bris Bein Habesarim. Yaakov Avinu sensed its beginning upon his descent to Egypt to reunite with Yosef.
Following in the tradition of the meforshim, the ‘first time’ something is described in the Torah is a paradigm of all similar events to come. Accordingly, from this first period of Galus, our meforshim glean many lessons and encouragement for all future exiles.
Hashem, in His Infinite wisdom, already prepared the way for us. Avrohom’s journey through Mitzrayim was meant to foreshadow our experiences and Yosef’s installation as viceroy prepared the climate to make Mitzrayim hospitable to the Jews, at least in the beginning. Rashi tells us that Yehuda even opened his very first Yeshiva to establish a place of learning! Our Sages teach us that the Shechina itself accompanies us to this and all future exiles!
There is another side to this coin. This approach allows us to learn, not only what Hashem does for us, but also what we can do and what our attitude and perspective to our host nation should be.
ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה יעקב ובניו
Now these are the names of the Bnei Yisroel coming to Mitzrayim
Rashi explains why the Torah uses the present tense -- coming. Because it was happening right then. If so, asks Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l, in the beginning of Shemos when the Jews were already in Mitzrayim, why does the Torah uses the exact same expression?
Rav Moshe explains the Torah's lesson here. While we are in galus, we must always view ourselves as if "just arriving". We should not attempt to "settle in" and get very comfortable. We’re just passing through. This attitude will hopefully help minimize the influences of the world around us and help preserve our goals and values as Ovdei Hashem.
Yosef also arranged that we should settle in the relatively quiet land of Goshen. There, we would continue in the ways of our Avos, and preserve what we could throughout the duration of that Galus.
And in our present galus, as well, while we interact with the world around us, this is our paradigm. A reminder that we also need a "protective shield" to keep our yiddishkeit and our goals clear and on track.
May we merit the redemption speedily in our days!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!