HAVE NO FEAR, ANYWHERE
Rabbi David Walk
The roller coaster ride which is Ya'akov Avinu's life resumes this week. Although the headlines from this week's Torah reading could read 'Titans Clash', describing the confrontation between Yosef and Yehuda, one can't help but sympathize with our grandfather, Yisrael saba, for the conflicting emotions he seems to be experiencing. He had already told his sons (Genesis 37:35) that he would 'go to his grave still mourning for his son.' Yet this week we read that when he received the news that od yosef chai ('Yosef still lives', 45:26), the shock is so great that Ya'akov seems to suffer a mini heart attack (vayafeg libo). Although he recovers enough to declare his intention of travelling to Egypt to see Yosef before he dies, nevertheless God deemed it necessary to encourage and reassure him as he sets out. This week let's explore the warring emotions within our alter zeidie.
Allow me to begin with a technical point, which ends up being quite poignant. When God calls to Ya'akov before promising Divine guidance for the descent to Egypt, Ya'akov responds, 'Hineini!' We've seen this expression before. Adam said it after the sin, Avraham said it during the Akeida (3x), Ya'akov said it when called by God in Padan Aram, Yosef said it when asked to check on his brothers in Shechem. It accompanies a resolve to fulfill a crucial yet difficult assignment. Hineini means I'm ready to answer the call, despite the danger. Ya'akov's response demonstrates his recognition that this trip is significant beyond the family dynamic. This trip is required for him to fulfill his destiny (Please, forgive me. I couldn't resist using that phrase because the new Star Wars movie just came out.), and that of the nation. Listen to God's response: I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up, and Joseph will place his hand on your eyes (46:3-4). This is beautiful. All prophecies will be fulfilled and his beloved Yosef will be there at his side. But, wait, who said anything about being afraid? Ya'akov said hineini!, does that imply fear? However, fear there must have been, because God instructs him to not be afraid.
Therefore, there are two questions which must be asked. Why did Ya'akov have a minor heart attack when told that Yosef was still alive? And why was he obviously afraid to go down to