For You Are With MeDecember 3, 2013 - 5:00 am
“I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”—Genesis 46:4
This Torah portion for this week is Vayigash, which means “and he approached,” from Genesis 44:18–47:27, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 37:15–28.
When people experience some of life’s most difficult situations, they often feel abandoned and forgotten by God. They wonder, “If God is with me, than how could things possibly be so bad?” However, Judaism teaches that the opposite is true. It is specifically in our most trying moments and during our most excruciating trials that God is right by our side, holding our hands, seeing us through our challenges and showering us with His love.
In this week’s Torah reading, we learn that there were 70 members of Jacob’s family that went from Canaan to Egypt (Genesis 46:27). However, as the Sages point out, when we count the names listed in the Bible, we only get 69! Who is the 70th individual?
According to Jewish tradition, a similar discrepancy was found when the Jews were exiled from Israel in the year 582 BCE and sent by the shipload to Babylon. The Babylonians would count each of the Jewish captives both when they left Israel and again when they reached the shores of Babylon. However, no matter how many people were counted on the boat before it set sail, there was always exactly one more than the original number when the ship reached its destination. The Babylonians were baffled and asked the Jews how this was possible. They answered: “As soon as we went into exile, our God joined us. He is found on each and every boat together with his children.”
Similarly, when the children of Israel went down to Egypt, the start of a harsh exile, God came with them. The Sages suggest that God is that 70th individual, as the verse says: “I will go down to Egypt with you.” As God’s children embarked on a perilous journey on which they would shed many bitter tears, He was right by their side, holding their hands, and loving them. Because when God’s children go through difficulties, God, our loving Father, comes with us, too.
Friends, it’s often when we feel most alone that we are least on our own. As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” It is precisely in the darkest valleys of our lives that God is with us. It’s when we have something to fear that we need not fear at all for He is most with us. When we go through challenges and difficulties, God comes with us and does not leave us until we have made it through. We never face our challenges alone, and with God by our side, we can get through anything.