The Quicksand of Exile

They became so settled in Egypt that they did not want to leave, until the Holy One Blessed be He had to take them out forcibly. And those who [still] did not want to leave died during the plague of darkness.


by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman, (


According to the Kli Yakar, the last verse of this week’s parashah, together with the first

verse of Parashat VaYechi, contain a powerful and timeless lesson for the Jewish people. At

the end of VaYigash, after Ya’akov and his entire family arrive in Egypt, the Torah states,

Israel settled (וישב) in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and they took possession

therein; and they grew and multiplied greatly (47:27). The very next verse, which begins

Parashat VaYechi, states, Ya’akov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years…

There is usually a space in the Torah separating one parashah from the next. As is well

known, however, no such space exists between VaYigash and VaYechi. Rashi quotes the

Midrash’s explanation of this phenomenon: “Why is this parashah ‘closed’? …Ya’akov

wanted to reveal to his sons [the time of] the End [of Days], but it was ‘closed off’ from him.”

That is, God prevented him from doing so. The following is the Kli Yakar’s interpretation of

these verses:



the Children of Israel. For the Holy One Blessed be He decreed that Your descendants

will be strangers (גר) [in a land not theirs] (15:13). They, however, sought to settle

(תושב) in the place where it was decreed that they would be strangers… The verse

reproaches them for this “settling,” for they sought a portion in a land not theirs.


Did they not say to Pharaoh, We have come to sojourn (לגור) in the land (47:4)? This

teaches that they did not go down to Egypt originally to settle there, rather to sojourn…

Now, however, they changed their minds. And they became so settled in Egypt that

they did not want to leave, until the Holy One Blessed be He had to take them out

forcibly. And those who [still] did not want to leave died during the three days of


…We still do not know why the Shechinah departed from Ya’akov [preventing him

from revealing the End of Days]. The answer is: The parashah is closed in order to

juxtapose [VaYechi] to the verse Israel settled…in the land of Goshen. For it is well

known that knowledge of the End of Days can cause great damage. Earlier generations

who know that the redemption will not come in their days, will not seek God’s

countenance and beg for the redemption… [Instead], they will strive to settle

permanently in the lands of the nations and acquire for themselves a portion in their

lands, like [full-fledged] settlers. [Thus, they will] lose hope over the redemption.

Therefore, HaShem concealed the final “End,” so that the Jews of every generation will

seek God’s countenance and David their king. He wanted to prevent them from striving

to settle in the lands of the nations. This way, they will constantly await God’s


Due to our sins, this tendency is prevalent in our midst, even though we do not know

when the “End” will be. Nonetheless, there are many simpletons who settle down in

the lands of the nations and build themselves prominent, paneled homes – stone

edifices made to last. For this reason, they do not seek God’s countenance

wholeheartedly, [beseeching Him] to bring them to their Land. Therefore, God leaves

them there.

Thus, the verse “Israel settled…in the land of Goshen” accuses Israel of wanting to

settle in and take possession of a land not theirs. And this mishap occurred because

they knew when the redemption from Egypt would take place [-after four hundred years

of bondage (see 15:13)]. Therefore, the first generations who knew for sure that the

redemption would not come in their days sought to settle permanently and acquire a

portion in the land of Egypt. This is why our verse is juxtaposed to the verse Ya’akov

lived (ויחי יעקב). It teaches us that this mishap – which occurred to those generations

because they knew the time of the End – caused [only] Ya’akov to live, but not the

spirit of Ya’akov [i.e., the Shechinah left him]. Ya’akov alone lived [but not his spirit],

so that he would not reveal the final End, so that this evil consequence would not spread

to future generations.

Any further comment would only detract from these remarkable words.




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