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Parshat Vayigash: Exile & Redemption

by Chaya Rivka Zwolinski

In Parsha Vayigash, Yaakov descends into Egypt, into exile, with all his family. He was well aware that the exile would last for generations. Reb Noson tells us Yaakov strengthened himself with the knowledge that Hashem is with each person during times of descent, exile and troubles. Hashem waits with us in order to ascend with us. What does this mean?

We all go through hard times in life. Most of us have a lot of ups and downs. When we are struggling, when we are going through a hard time, it may seem like we’re trapped. It may seem like there is no hope. But the truth is there is always hope. There is always hope because Hashem is everywhere. He fills everything and surrounds everything. He sustains all of creation. He is indeed with us in our troubles. (He is with us in our happiest moments, too.)

Why do we have to descend? Why do we have to have a yerida? Rabbi Nachman tells us that the yerida is for the sake of the subsequent aliyah. We need to go down in order to go up. When we’re down or going down, we can learn things about ourselves, and others (and our relationship with Hashem) that we can’t learn when everything is smooth sailing.

This doesn’t feel very comforting when we’re in the throes of a difficulty. It just doesn’t. We’re hurting. We don’t want to hear about learning — we want out! But if we can find the strength to reach deep inside during those times and remind ourselves that surely Hashem is with us in this low place too, we can turn to Him from the deepest depths. This helps to alleviate the pain we are feeling.

The world says suffering builds character. Of course, nobody wants suffering and nobody cares about the character when they’re suffering. But Rebbe Nachman teaches us something deep.  When we are going through hard times, if we are able to focus with da’at (intelligence and holy awareness of Hashem of who we truly are), the suffering is mitigated. If we can find the good points in our lives and inside ourselves, we reveal our connection to Hashem. Then we find the suffering can even be alleviated. We’ve built character without very strenuous pain.

Meanwhile, when someone else is suffering, it may not be the time to tell them this message. When someone else is suffering it’s time to begin by comforting them. Just as you are also allowed to comfort yourself, to give over and express your sorrow, comfort others. Then once you’ve shared someone’s sorrow, once you’ve validated them, it might be okay to share Rebbe Nachman’s message. The yerida is for the sake of the aliyah.

Yaakov knew Hashem was with him even in the deepest exile. You can too.

May you have a day where you can find the good in your difficulties. (And may you not have many of them.)

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