The Weekly Sedra – Parshas Vayigash

by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg

The Rebbe says:

1. Towards the end of this week’s Torah portion the Torah tells us that Yakov Avinu (Jacob our forefather) traveled down to Egypt to see his son Yoseph Hatzadik (Joseph the righteous one).

The Torah tells us that before Yakov Avinu went down to Egypt he sent his son Yehuda ahead of him to set up a Yeshiva (a Jewish institution for Torah study) there first because Yakov Avinu did not want to go to a land that did not have a Yeshiva ready.

2. The Rebbe now stresses how important it was for Yakov Avinu to have a Yeshiva ready for him in Egypt:

The fact that Yakov Avinu did not want to go down to Egypt unless there was a Yeshiva there ready for him is especially significant because Hashem (G-d) had already promised Yakov Avinu that He would go down to Egypt with him. In other words, even though Hashem had told Yakov Avinu that He would be with him in Egypt, Yakov Avinu did not rely on this alone and he still needed to set up a Yeshiva there before he even got there.

3. The Rebbe now tells us why it was so important for Yakov Avinu to set up a Yeshiva that would be ready for him when he got to Egypt:

Torah is the backbone and existence of the Jewish nation. Therefore, Yakov Avinu did not want the Jewish people to live in a place for even one day without a Yeshiva.

4. The Rebbe now points out that this Yeshiva which was instituted by Yakov Avinu lasted the whole time that the Jews were in Egypt:

The Talmud tells us that even during the Egyptian exile the Jewish people learnt Torah in Yeshiva; not a day went by in Egypt without the Jews learning Torah.

This is especially noteworthy because the Egyptian exile was the hardest exile of all the exiles that the Jewish people have been through, including our exile today.

5. The Rebbe now gives us four reasons as to why the Egyptian exile was the hardest exile of all exiles:

First reason: The exile in Egypt was before the giving of the Torah. This being the case, the Torah learning that our fathers did in Egypt was only with their own strength and consequently could only reach a level that their own strength could take them to. However, after the giving of the Torah Jews can learn Torah with the strength of Hashem and therefore their reach is infinite.

Second reason: The exile in Egypt was the first exile that the Jewish people ever experienced, therefore it was the hardest. As we see clearly from life experience, the first time a misfortune happens to someone (Heaven Forbid) it is almost unbearable but if it reoccurs (Heaven Forbid) it is much easier to handle.

Third reason: During the Egyptian exile all the Jews were in the same place of affliction and torture, therefore, one Jew could not help out another Jew. However in the later exiles the Jews were spread out all over the world and a Jew in one place could help out a Jew in another place.

Fourth reason: The land of Egypt was closed off so that not even one slave could run away. Therefore, being that since the Jewish people were six hundred thousand people strong (not including women and children), they seemingly had no hope of getting out.

Never the less our fathers made sure to learn Torah every single day.

6. The Rebbe now explains the lesson for students in Yeshivas and for supporters of Yeshivas:

The lesson for students in Yeshivas:

There are those students who say that it is very hard for them to learn the way they should be learning because they first have to be secure financially. They say that they cannot learn with peace of mind because their mind pressures them with thoughts of how they are going to support the children which Hashem will one day give them. Of course first they must reach the age when they have to think about finding a match, then they must deal with finding a match, then with Hashem’s help they actually find their match, then they will have a L’Chaim (engagement party), then they will get married, and only after all this will Hashem give them children in a good time, never the less these students are worrying now!

There are even some students who also worry about what they are going to leave their children after a hundred and twenty years (after they pass on).

Because of these financial worries they are leaving Yeshiva now to try and start earning money, or they stay in Yeshiva but their minds are busy with thoughts of making money.

The lesson for these Yeshiva students from this week’s Torah portion is that even in Egypt, which was the worst exile of all time (because of the four above mentioned reasons), they learnt Torah every day. The exile in Egypt was so bad that they couldn’t even imagine ever being redeemed, as we see, they didn’t believe Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) when he came and told them that he was going to take them out of exile. Never the less they learnt Torah every day and did not make any calculations of “What’s going to be”.

The lesson for supporters of Yeshivas:

There are those people that say they cannot give money to Yeshivas because they are “tight” right now. They say that they are tight in their wallets and tight in their heads (they are not relaxed). They first want to relax and be satiated and wait for their wallets to fill up more and then they will give money to Yeshivas.

The lesson for these people from this week’s Torah portion is that even in Egypt where they didn’t even have their own straw and their oppressors were standing over them with sticks and whipping them, they still made sure there was a Yeshiva to go to. They didn’t have straw but they did have a Yeshiva.

Translated and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume one, second Sicha.

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