Friday, January 06, 2023

don't be deceived by sweetness

  וַיְחִ֤י יַעֲקֹב֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם שְׁבַ֥ע עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָ֑ה  Rashi comments:

  למה פרשה זה סתומה? לפי שכיון שנפטר יעקב אבינו נסתתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל מצרת השיעבוד, שהתחילו לשעבדם.

Forget about the question of whether this Rashi is a stira to other Rashis that say the shibud did not begin until after the shevatim died.  Rashi is a stira to the pasuk itself!  The Torah here is describing the great life Yaakov had in Egypt.  As Netziv writes, אלא הפירוש ״ויחי יעקב״, שהיה חי חיים טובים ומתוקנים, מה שלא הורגל כזה בארץ ישראל.  The stuma that hints to  נסתתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל shouldn't be here -- it should come after Yaakov's death, at the start of parshas Shmos, when the situation changes.  As the Shem m'Shmuel writes (5678, also see the Kozhiglover):

ויש לדקדק שכתוב זה איננו מדבר מפטירתו של יעקב עדיין, אדרבה, שמדבר מחייו שהי' עיקר שני חייו, ..., א"כ יש להבין למה הרמז ממה שנהייתה אחר פטירתו ניתן כאן

There is a Zohar that says that these 17 years of goodness that Yaakov experienced were a payback for the years of suffering he experienced when Yosef was lost -- 17 years because Yosef left home at age 17.  The obvious question: Yosef was away from home for 22 years, so why not give Yaakov 22 years of joy?  What does how old he was when he left home have to do with anything?  The Kozhiglover answers that it was the 17 years of pleasure that Yaakov had during those first 17 years of Yosef's life that made the next 22 years so miserable.  Pain and loss are a response to being deprived of joy and pleasure that one has become accustomed to.  Without the latter, the former is meaningless.  

It could be that Rashi means the same here, i.e. the goodness Yaakov experienced in Egypt set the stage for the pain of galus that was to follow because it made the fall that much more dramatic and painful.  But I think Rashi means much more than that.  I think the goodness itself is the first step into the galus.  

In my neighborhood there are yeshivos, there are kollelim, there is also every type of kosher restaurant and eatery and gashmiyus thing you could think of.  וַיְחִ֤י יַעֲקֹב֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם!  We are on a high, whether you measure our material well being or even our spiritual health.  But that high masks a sad truth, and that is  נסתתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל.  Not because we are not learning Torah, davening with a minyan, giving out kids a good Jewish education, etc. but because we have deluded ourselves into thinking that's all that matters, that's all that being a Jew is all about.  Does it even enter anyone's mind when they are eating a great steak dinner at one of the local fancy restaurants in town, or l'havdil, when they are listening to a shiur in a local shul, that this is not where we are supposed to be, that our whole existence here is just a b'dieved?  I think not. That's  נסתתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל  That's being blinded by the חיים טובים ומתוקנים, מה שלא הורגל כזה, to use the Netziv's language. 

What happened later in parshas Shmos is that the  נסתתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל  that started here from all the goodness was transformed into נסתתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל מצרת השיעבוד.  Once Yaakov, who carried with him the memory of where the family originated, was gone, a different phase of the galus began, a more painful phase, but that phase was an extension of the forgetting that began in our parsha.  Therefore it is our parsha, not parshas Shmos, which is the פרשה זה סתומה.

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