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Striving and Thriving
“And he lived…”(47:28)
The national census for Jews living in Israel was approximately 6,700,000 in 2019. That of the United States was approximately 6,543,820 in 2018. If you add all the other places in the Diaspora, from France with around 450,000 Jews, to El Salvador, or North Macedonia, or the Philippines, who have around 100 Jews, and factor in the Israeli birth rate together with the increase in aliya to Israel from places like France — the Jewish population of the Land of Israel will exceed that of the Diaspora in the foreseeable future. This will trigger a number of halachic events and laws that have not occurred for nearly two thousand years.
We are coming to the end of our longest exile. The story of the Jewish People in the Diaspora has not been one of unremitting misery, despite horrific and terrible events. For much of our time in exile, we have managed to live and prosper without losing our identity among our hosts. Where did this ability come from?
Yaakov’s intention when he came down to Egypt was only to “sojourn” — not to live there permanently. However,“And he lived,” the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, tells us that Hashem told Yaakov to live out the rest of his life there. Also, the verb “to live” here suggests that Yaakov finally found peace in Egypt. At the end of his difficult life, he finally found tranquility. But didn’t the Torah implicitly criticize Yaakov for wanting to dwell in tranquility, as we see at the beginning of the Torah portion of Vayeshev?
“The actions of the Patriarchs are a sign to their children.”
Yaakov’s living and thriving in happiness in exile was a sign for the generations that you can live — and prosper — even in exile, by the diligent learning and the inspired living of the Torah, the qualities epitomized by Yaakov.
- Sources: Abarbanel, Akeidah, ArtScroll Chumash – Stone Edition