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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Down We Go

בראשית פרק מו

(א) וַיִּסַּע יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכָל אֲשֶׁר לוֹ וַיָּבֹא בְּאֵרָה שָּׁבַע וַיִּזְבַּח זְבָחִים לֵאלֹהֵי אָבִיו יִצְחָק:
(ב) וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמַרְאֹת הַלַּיְלָה וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב יַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי:
(ג) וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי הָאֵל אֱלֹהֵי אָבִיךָ אַל תִּירָא מֵרְדָה מִצְרַיְמָה כִּי לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל אֲשִׂימְךָ שָׁם
(ד) אָנֹכִי אֵרֵד עִמְּךָ מִצְרַיְמָה וְאָנֹכִי אַעַלְךָ גַם עָלֹה וְיוֹסֵף יָשִׁית יָדוֹ עַל עֵינֶיךָ

Genesis 46

(1) And Israel and all that he had traveled and came to Beer Sheva. And he sacrificed sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. (2) And God said to Israel in a vision of the night and He said, "Yaakov, Yaakov." And he said, "I am here." (3) And He said, "I am the God, Lord of your father. Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt for I will make you a great nation there.(4) I will go down with you to Egypt and I will also surely bring you up and Yosef will place his hand on your eyes."

Yaakov just heard that Yosef, his long lost son, is not only alive but in fact is viceroy over the most powerful country in the region. Yosef sent him a message to his father that he should come to Egypt and he would take care of him there. And, in fact, as we see from the above verses, Yaakov packs up everything and moves out.

So why, when God addresses him, does he tell Yaakov not to be afraid? Where is there an indication that Yaakov was afraid at all?

Okay, you can answer and say that God knows everything and He happened to know that Yaakov was really shaking in his boots. However, that seems a bit weak.

Consider these questions, as well, and perhaps they will point to an answer:

Why did Yaakov stop in Beer Sheva?
Why are his sacrifices directed to the God of his father Isaac and not, say, the God of Abraham, as well?

Also, if God is trying to assuage Yaakov's fears of going to Egypt, how does telling him that he will be a great nation there help? What exactly was Yaakov afraid of?


  1. You obviously have something in mind. I'm clueless. Spill.

  2. i think that jacob is afraid of assimilation in egypt, after all he is going to live amongst strangers
    and that is why the reassurance comes "that you will be a great nation", because it corresponses to
    the fear of losing one's identity or am i projecting here? knowing me knowing you

  3. Sigal, you make a good point, as well. Yaakov experienced life outside of his family circle when he went to Aram and stayed with Lavan. Those were not the happiest times for him. Clearly, he would have preferred to stay put, especially after all he had been through. I think you are right that he fears the consequences if not for him but for his offspring of being in Egypt and not knowing when he/they will return.