This week’s Parsha begins by telling us, “VaYichi Yaakov B’Eretz Mitzrayim Shva Esrei Shana,” And Yaakov lived in Egypt for seventeen years. Chazal explain in many different places that these were Yaakov’s best years. Only now was he truly alive. The deeper sources go so far as to say that he living a life tantamount to the End of Days, to Acharis HaYamim. Living an idealistic spiritual existence. His whole life was post-Mashiach, living with no problems, no temptation, no bothers; just closeness to Hashem. Vayichi Yaakov B’Eretz Mitzrayim: Kick up your feet and relax – This mamesh is the life.
Rav Shlomo Kluger asks a simple question: Eretz Yisrael is called Artzos HaChayim, the land from which all life-energy is rooted. Techiyas HaMeisim, the resurrection of the dead, comes to fruition in Eretz Yisrael - the power to be alive is here. So how is at all logical to say that Yaakov Avinu was so amazingly alive in Mitzrayim? Even further - how can that even be called life at all?!
The answer is that Yaakov Avinu was living an Eretz-Yisrael-like existence. He had Artzos HaChayim in his head, so even in Mitzrayim he can thrive on an Eretz Yisrael level.
The question is how did he do it? What was it about Yaakov Avinu’s outlook that empowered him and inspired him to such a lofty existence, even in the lowest of places?
The Sfas Emes answers that Yaakov Avinu really understood himself. He was really in touch with his unique Kochos and capabilities, and via that he was able to see through the distracting and daunting shell of Egypt and keep his mind on the goal of Geulah, and if his head is in the right place, then it doesn’t matter where his body is.
Yaakov’s attribute is truth. As we say every week, Titen Emes L’Yaakov - Give truth to Yaakov. What is Emes? What is truth? To have Truth means to have the ability to see past distraction and tap into everything’s essential core. This is truth. Emes means seeing what everything is really all about.
And this is what the outlook of Eretz Yisael is all about. Chazal tell us that Avira D’Artza Machkim - The air of the Land of Israel makes one wise. Rav Kook writes in Oros that when a Jew is in lands of the nations, just being there impedes his higher awareness. The natural spiritual intelligence – a sense of being tuned in to holiness becomes dimmed. There is a spiritual static that disrupts the air.
This is not the case in Eretz Yisrael. In Eretz Yisrael, my elevated qualities are Tzalul V’Barur - clear and lucid, Naki V’Tahor - clean and pure. But most importantly, he writes that the Jewish mind is infinitely more capable to perceive the Hofa’as HaEmes HaElokis - the expressions of Godly truth that penetrates all reality.
This truth; the reality that all things are totally and completely under God’s control at all times, is the make-it-or-break-it point of exile versus redemption. BaYom HaHu Yihiye Hashem Echad U’Shemo Echad means that on the day of the Great Revelation of Hashem’s unity, we will all see with the utmost clarity that God’s specific attention enlivens all things.
But we are told through Chazal that even before that day where He pulls off the mask, a person can reveal this truth to himself! I can choose to see through all the noise. I can choose to relate to my soul as the real me. I can choose (or at least attempt) to focus on HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s total dominance. I can constantly relate to that Hofa’as HaEmes HaElokis. When I do that – I’m living in my own personal redemption.
Says the Sfas Emes, when the Passuk tells us VaYichi Yaakov B’Eretz Mitzrayim, we are being told that Yaakov was a vessel; he was channeling through himself this Eretz-Yisrael-sense. By fully actualizing his attribute of Emes he was teaching by example how to be in Artzos HaChayim even in what the Torah calls Ervas Ha’Aretz - the land of Egypt, a place totally engrossed in filth.
Eretz Yisrael is about Emes. Emes is a Geulah state-of-mind. So if I engrain in myself the deepest, realest kind of Emes - Yaakov Avinu Emes, so much so that it becomes my very personality; I take the Geulah with me no matter where I go. And with that we can have VaYichi Yaakov – Titen Emes L’Yaakov – B’Eretz Mitzrayim.
At the end of the Parsha Yaakov tells his children, “Hei’Asfu V’Agida Lachem Es Asher Yikra Eschem Ba’Acharis HaYamim,” Gather around and I’ll tell you what will happen to you in the End of Days.
Now we see a new depth in how Yaakov was able to tell them what would happen in the End of Days. As we have explained, in a very real way, Yaakov Avinu was already there! So now he could begin to reveal a date, a description, everything that that the days of redemption would be.
But as we are told, this did not come to fruition. The Ruach HaKodesh, the divine inspiration that would allow him to reveal these secrets, left him. Yaakov was no longer able to relate this unity.
Why? The Midrashim tell us that Yaakov was concerned that just like Avraham had Yishmael, and Yitzchak had Eisav, perhaps one among his sons was generating a negative energy. Perhaps one of them was not seeing the world through the lens of Emes that is required to be connected to the End of Days.
On another level, the Sefer Mima’amakim brings from Rav Moshe Shapira and the Sfas Emes that the number twelve, the number of the tribes is a number that when left unchecked is a manifestation of dispersion. Try it; it takes twelve lines, twelve bars to draw a cube. A cube is a 3D model of space. (Check out the Chanukah essay for a more detailed description) But there is a very important center point in the middle of the cube that holds things together. The Point of Context, the Factor that keeps everything connected. This Factor is our recognition of Hashem. (Check out the Chanukah essay for a more detailed description)
For this reason the word Echad, which means one, has the numerical value of thirteen. Twelve components and one unifying factor. The unity of all space comes through the unification of twelve.
This adds a new beauty to how the Midrash tells us that the tribes responded. What did they answer back to Yaakov? Shema Yisrael! Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad! Listen up Yisrael! Listen up Father! We know that Hashem is One! We recognize His unity! We are in the right state-of-mind for this revelation. We together make up the twelve components and the unifying factor!
But it was too late. Yaakov no longer knew the date. But Chazal tell us that he revealed the secrets in a hidden way instead. Instead of describing the End of Days, Yaakov gave all of the tribes blessings and he defined each one. Yehuda is a lion. Dan is a Snake. Yissachar is a Donkey. Zevulun is a sea-trader. Each one was defined by his truest essence.
And this is the underlying secret of Geulah. The only way for there to be a clear, well built, and unified cube – there needs to be well defined parts.
Emes needs to penetrate all details for the unity to be pulled together. Only when I try to understand everything, when I see the unique and special essence of all the differences can I begin to see the unifying factor. If everything is the same, then finding a unifying theme is no big deal. Beauty by its very definition is harmony of differences. Pulling together many colors, many aspects to form one portrait is where true beauty is. It’s only when I discover the common denominator that unifies all the dispersion – the number thirteen that unifies the first twelve – it is only then that BaYom HaHu Yihiye Hashem Echad fully emerges. Beauty by its very definition is harmony of differences. Pulling together many colors, many aspects to form one portrait is where true beauty is.
This is why Yaakov’s full accessing of his attribute of Emes geared him towards a Geulah state of mind. When we tap into this, we too can begin to understand our unique capabilities, our unique strengths, and our unique way of revealing the unifying point and how we can do our part in tying it all together – bringing together all the dispersion and bringing us all to the ultimate Geulah BaYom HaHu Yihiye Hashm Echad Ushmo Echas - Amen.