In this last Parasha of Chumash Bereishis, we discover a new Yaakov. We encounter a Yaakov who is relaxed, content and preparing to leave this world with the knowledge that all of his children are righteous and following in his path. Yet, we may wonder what happened until now. Ever since Yaakov was born, or rather, even before he was born, he is plagued by contention, discord and threats to his very life. Even when Yaakov is commanded by his mother to receive his father Yitzchak’s blessings, the Medrash states that Yaakov enters crying, under duress, an unwilling accomplice in his mother’s noble scheme. Yaakov then embarks on a mission of finding a wife, where he discovers a thieving and deceptive uncle Lavan who attempts to rob him of his wife, his children, his possessions and last but not least, his sanity. Yaakov escapes in good time and he then travels to Esav or away from Esav, depending on different opinions in the Medrash. Ultimately he is coerced to meet with Esav and his angel. Yaakov emerges triumphant, albeit with a battle scar on his thigh that is the catalyst for the prohibition of us not eating the גיד הנשה, the sciatic nerve. Yaakov then encounters Shechem, who violates Dena and then Shimon and Levi attack the entire city of Shechem, annihilating the people of Shechem and incurring Yaakov’s wrath. The final blow is yet to come, as Yaakov’s premature desire for tranquility on earth is not meant to be. Yosef and his brothers engage in a feud and Yosef ends up the apparent loser, as the brothers cast him into a pit and subsequently sell him down the river to Egypt. Yosef is away from Yaakov for twenty two years and on the way, Yaakov loses Shimon temporarily and almost forfeits his youngest son, Binyomin. After all of this, we would think that Yaakov deserves a break, but alas, it is not to be. The Medrash informs us that Yaakov was deserving to descend to Egypt in chains, but HaShem had mercy on him and allowed him to descend in honor. What is going on here? The Hagadah teaches us: וירד מצרימה, אנוס על פי הדיבור, then he (Yaakov) descended to Egypt, compelled by Divine Decree. Why the necessity for coercion? Avraham was willing to sacrifice Yitzchak, his beloved and only child from Sara, at the Akeidah. Ironically, HaShem had to compel Avraham not to slaughter his own son. Why, then, was it necessary for HaShem to force Yaakov down to Egypt? Would not a command from up high have sufficed?
The answer to this question is that Yaakov reflects the Jewish Exile, and in order for us to understand the exile, Yaakov, our forefather, was forced to descend into exile against his will. How often do we look around at our state of affairs and wonder, “what are we doing here?” Tickets to Eretz Yisroel are relatively affordable, many non-Israeli Jews already reside in Eretz Yisroel, and life in the Diaspora is not as glamorous as people would think?” Yet, millions of Jews remain outside of Eretz Yisroel, and for what purpose? The answer to these questions is that we are in exile because HaShem forced us to be here. When we can no longer tolerate the exile, says the Sfas Emes, then HaShem will redeem us. It is noteworthy that the מילוי of the word יעקב isיו”ד עיי”ן קו”ף בי”ת, which equals in gematria the words והוא ירד למצרים אנוס, and he descended to Egypt under duress.
HaShem should grant us the opportunity to experience true freedom, without coercion, and we should merit what is said (Micha 7:15) כִּימֵי צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אַרְאֶנּוּ נִפְלָאוֹת, as in the days when you left the land of Egypt I will show it wonders.
Have an UNCOERCED Shabbos!