In this week’s Torah portion we learn how the Children of Israel got stuck in Egypt and why this is a prophetic foreshadow of what is happening to the Jewish people today.
Why did Israel spend 400 years in Egypt?
Egypt was a temporary refuge because there was a famine in the land of Canaan. Jacob brought his family down because “there is bread in Egypt.”
But the Children of Israel began to feel at home in the foreign land. Pharaoh loved Joseph. When Jacob went down to Egypt he received a royal welcome. The whole family was favored because of Joseph and the Children of Jacob got too comfortable in a land not their own.
This point is emphasized in the final verse of our Torah portion Vayigash:
“Israel settled in the country of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired holdings in it and were fertile and increased greatly.” (Genesis 47:27)
Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, known as Nahmanides, in his 13th commentary to the Bible, saw this Torah portion as a foreshadowing of the future exiles of the Jewish people and their unwillingness to return home to their land in Israel.
“Jacob went down there because of the famine thinking he would be saved with his son in the house of one who favored them, for Pharaoh loved Joseph as his own son. They intended to return from there with the conclusion of the famine in Canaan as they said, “We have come to dwell as strangers in the land as there is no grazing for your servants’ flock since the famine is severe in the land of Canaan’ (Genesis 47:4).
But behold, they did not return and [Jacob’s] exile was prolonged. He died there, they brought up his bones [to Canaan], and the elders and officers of Pharaoh brought him up and mourned greatly. The Children of Israel sought to become permanent citizens in a place where they were supposed to be foreigners. They became so permanent there that they did not want to leave until God took them out with a mighty Hand.” (Ramban al HaTorah, Gen. 47:28)
Jacob’s Children are slaves again
The same thing happening again in our days. In particular, US Jews have become very comfortable in a land not their own. They are not coming back to Israel in anywhere near the numbers they could or should.
After the horrors of 2000 years of antisemitic violence in exile around the world, I appreciate the safety, comfort, and affluence North America afforded the Jews. And there is no question that America has been blessed for doing so.
But there is also no question that Jews in exile are losing their biblical faith and the moral clarity that comes with knowing that Israel has a divine role in world history.
It is hard to understand why Messianic Jews, especially those from the US where there are an estimated 100,000 Jews who believe in Jesus, have not flocked to Israel. Surely more than most they understand the unique calling of Israel. The future of Messianic Judaism can only be sustainable in the Land of Israel. Obedience to our calling to settle the Land would be a sterling example to our people of our faith in Jesus and a defining moment in the history of the Messianic movement and the future of Israel.
I will be spelling this out in a soon to be published article on The Future for Messianic Jews in the Last Days.
Like the generations of Israel in Egypt, Jews in exile today have grown comfortable. We have forgotten that exile is a punishment where we wait for the opportunity to go home.
Sure, there is plenty of “bread” in the US as the Americans like to call their money, but the famine in our own Land is over. It’s time to go home.
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