Surviving the Tempest
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
The descent of Yaakov and his family to Egypt sets the stage for the eventual full-fledged exile that his grandchildren and future generations will endure. He was fully aware of the ramifications of his plunge in to the contaminated culture that Egypt represented. Yehuda was sent ahead to establish a Beis Medrash, a center for Torah study in Goshen where they were to settle. Additionally, Goshen was distant from the main population centers in Egypt and this was another safeguard to avert potential absorption of Egyptian culture. However, was that going to be enough to survive the many years of confinement and exposure that would confront the generations to come?
Each of the sons of Yaakov received a blessing that addressed the particular strengths of that individual. Yehuda had the forte to admit wrongdoing. His encounter with Tamar, his daughter-in-law, caused him considerable embarrassment. Yet when he needed to confess that she was correct, he boldly faced the challenge. Although his status was that of a king, he nevertheless did not play that card and allow her to be executed. Rather, he acceded to her plea and did not permit three innocent souls to die. What determines the fundamental ability to admit guilt? Why was it so significant that Yehuda’s future rests upon that principle?
S’fas Emes understands that such extreme honesty supports one’s allegiance to an unadulterated belief system in Hashem. After all, if all that Hashem does is for our benefit, acceptance of any given situation should be the natural choice that one should make. Obviously, when a person fails and errs, that is indicative of a breakdown of the system which delineates one’s behavior. In order to reinstate the previous modus operandi, one must exercise tremendous will power and determination to regain that lost pinnacle of success and achievement. The struggle is awesome and the reward for the accomplishment is regaining that equilibrium which so effectively guided the person until now.
The exile in Egypt and all subsequent exiles demonstrate a general collapse of the nation and its doctrines. What force can reenergize the people to reclaim what they have lost and to climb that mountain that seeks to block them in their desire to again become close to Hashem? It is that inner source of dynamism and vitality that will thrust and invigorate the people to uplift themselves from their abyss of failure and ruin. It is the Yehuda in each and every Jew that motivates us to again achieve and accomplish and not submit to our temporary downfall that so debilitates our ability to envision a future of success and victory. That is precisely why we are called ‘Yehudim’, a reference to that ongoing internal drive to endure whatever challenges our exiles will surely present us.
Indeed, this potency that is Yehuda’s legacy for our nation is deeply rooted in the Torah and that is exactly why he was sent in the forefront of our arrival in Egypt to organize our establishment in Goshen. The study of Torah is our bulwark against the invasion of foreign ideas and themes that will corrupt our time-tested system and provides the impetus to throw off the shackles of our enemies and to regain our stability that buoys us in the stormy weather of our ongoing exile.
Byte for Shabbos
Zevulun was a highly successful businessman and supported his brother Yisochor who was immersed in Torah. Although Zevulun did not merit being involved in the actual study of Torah like his brother, nonetheless his funding to provide for Yisochor’s needs gave him the exact same merit of Torah study.