In this week’s Parsha, Vayigash, Yaakov and his family make their fateful move to Egypt to be with Yosef because of the famine that ravaged the land of Israel. It was fateful on account that this would be the beginning of a 210 year exile which would include over 80 years of bitter enslavement and would conclude with the Exodus. Before the making this move Yaakov sent his son, Yehudah, to establish an academy of Torah study so that when the family would arrive the Yeshiva would already be set up.
What was so critical about having a Yeshiva in place immediately? All the laws and traditions that Yaakov and his family observed could continue as usual without having the Yeshiva set up. Certainly there was a need for a Yeshiva to continue the scholarship of Torah and to maintain their observance but why the urgency and the immediacy?
To answer this question we must appreciate what the Torah means to us. It is commonly understood that our Torah is the constitution or by-laws of the Jewish people given to us by our Director. While this understanding is accurate, it is nevertheless incomplete. One primary description is missing. Let us return to this in a moment.
Every nation draws its existence from the land upon which it was born. The Estonian people are Estonian by virtue of the fact that they live in Estonia. If an Estonian will move off his land to America he continues to be an Estonian for the rest of his life. However, his children or perhaps grandchildren but certainly his great great grandchildren will not be Estonian. The process of assimilation will do its job and after a given number of generations this Estonian family will be lost to their Estonian heritage. Assimilation is a natural process that cannot be stopped. It is the function of the Law of Entropy. As long as the source of a nation’s existence remains intact the nation will continue to exist. However, once the nation is detached from their source they will sooner or later dissolve.
This leads us to the riddle of the endurance of the Jewish people. How do we continue to exist over 2,000 without a land, without a unified body? For 2,500 we have been dispersed throughout the globe. If it is not our land then what is the source of our existence? The answer is the Torah. Our connection to the Torah is the life source of our people in a very direct way. We are therefore able to move anywhere on the globe and continue being a thriving community. If you live off your computer you can appreciate the difference between the desktop and the laptop. You can further appreciate the difference between working off the cloud and working off the laptop. When all your work is on the cloud you can use any computer anywhere to access your work.
The existence of our people comes from our relationship with HaShem. The energy of this relationship flows through the Torah. Our connection with the Torah transcends the mere collection of our traditions, laws and ethos. It is the core of our existence.
Yaakov understood that to survive the difficult 210 year exile they were about to enter, it was critical to maintain an unbroken connection to the Cloud. He therefore sent Yehudah ahead set up the Yeshiva before the family came down.
The lesson of this Parsha is relevant not only to the existence of our people but for the existence of every Jew. A daily dose of Torah study brings the student of Torah remarkable energy which is expressed in his daily relationships with others and with himself. When the Torah is studied properly there is an inner happiness and satisfaction within oneself. It comes from that same connection to the Cloud.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.