Parashat Vayigash- The Antidote to Adversity
The Torah in Parashat Vayigash tells of Yaakob Abinu’s move from Eretz Yisrael to Egypt with his entire family. We read that Yaakob went to Egypt together with "Kol Zar’o" – "all his offspring" (46:6). The Torah then seems to unnecessarily repeat this point, that all of Yaakob’s offspring joined him in Egypt: "His sons and his sons’ sons [went] with him; his daughters and his sons’ daughters and all his offspring, he brought with him to Egypt" (46:7).
What does this second verse add? Once we’ve been told that Yaakob went to Egypt with all his offspring, why does the Torah then need to specify his sons, his sons’ sons, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters?
The Or Ha’haim (Rav Haim Ben-Attar, 1696-1743) offers a fascinating explanation of this verse, suggesting that the Torah here is delineating two different groups of Yaakob’s offspring. The first group "went with him," just as he did, with the same mindset and outlook. Yaakob knew that he and his family were going to Egypt to begin the fulfillment of the prophecy given to his grandfather, Abraham, that his descendants would be persecuted in a foreign land. He understood that this was not going to be easy or pleasant, that his offspring were going to suffer terribly at the hands of the Egyptians. Nevertheless, he went to Egypt wholeheartedly, fully accepting Hashem’s decree. The verse here tells us that Yaakob’s "sons and his sons’ sons went with him" – meaning, they went to Egypt in the same manner as he did, without any ambivalence or hesitation, trusting in Hashem. There were others, however, about whom the verse says, "he brought with him to Egypt" – implying that they needed to be coerced into moving to Egypt. This group did not have the same level of faith, and were hesitant to begin the decree of exile and persecution.
After presenting this interpretation, the Or Ha’haim references the teaching of the Midrash (Shemot Rabba, 1) that the bondage did not begin until those who had moved from Canaan to Egypt had passed away. It was only after that generation in its entirety perished that G-d brought the pain and suffering of slavery upon Beneh Yisrael. The Or Ha’haim explains, "Perhaps this was for them a reward for willingly accepting the King’s decree…for the remedy for suffering is acceptance."
In this passage, the Or Ha’haim here reveals to us the answer to one of the most frequently asked questions asked by believing Jews: How should we respond to our problems and troubles to make them go away? The Or Ha’haim identifies for us the "antidote" to adversity, stating, "Sama De’yisureh Kabuleh" – "the remedy for suffering is acceptance." If we want to spare ourselves troubles and hardship, we need to accept everything that Hashem decrees should transpire. Yaakob’s family members who went to Egypt wholeheartedly, undeterred by the decree of hardship, were rewarded by being spared that decree. This is the remedy – to humbly and unquestioningly accept everything that Hashem does.
The Or Ha’haim concludes this passage by referencing a comment by the Zohar (Vayakhel, 198a) explaining the verse in Tehillim (146:5), "Ashreh She’Kel Yaakob Be’ezro, Sibro Al Hashem Elokav" – "Fortunate is he who is helped by the G-d of Yaakob; who places his hope in Hashem his G-d." The Zohar states that the word "Sibro" ("his hope") should be read as "Shibro" – "his crisis." In times of crisis and hardship, we need to reinforce our Emuna, our belief and conviction that everything Hashem does is for the best. If we do, then we transform "Shibro" into "Sibro" – we bring hope into an otherwise painful and overwhelming situation.
We all occasionally find ourselves dealing with adversity in one form or another. The Or Ha’haim here teaches us that the most effective remedy which we can make use of to help ourselves during periods of hardship is Emuna, placing our faith in Hashem, and accepting everything He does without questioning Him.