For the week of December 25, 1999 / 16 Tevet 5760
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
Haftarah: I Kings 2:1-12
Don't Get Attached to Blessings
So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed (Bereshit / Genesis 47:11).
Safety and prosperity - what a wonderful place Egypt was! That's not exactly how the land of Egypt is usually remembered by the Jewish people. Looking back at the history of Israel, Egypt is thought of as the place of oppression and slavery. In fact our very identity is wrapped up in God's freeing us from Egypt.
But we forget that it was God that led us to Egypt in the first place. He did so to preserve us. Famine had gripped the whole region, but God had warned Pharaoh, King of Egypt, through a dream that Joseph interpreted. Joseph's brothers had sold him to slave traders, because they were jealous of him. After being sold to an Egyptian, whom he faithfully served, Joseph was wrongfully imprisoned. It was while he was in prison that his ability to interpret dreams became known. When Pharaoh's wise men could not explain the meaning of his dream, Joseph did That resulted in his promotion as the official overseer for the gathering and distribution of food.
When Joseph's brothers came to Egypt seeking to purchase food, he eventually revealed himself to them and arranged for his father, Jacob, and his entire clan to join him there. In fact, Pharaoh provided them with the best part of the land, Goshen.
Israel prospered in Egypt. Yet it was this prosperity that prompted a later Pharaoh to initiate a campaign of oppression against them, which in time ended through their miraculous departure.
Israel was never meant to stay in Egypt. Abraham had been told that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land for four hundred years (Bereshit / Genesis 15:13,14). Joseph, prior to his death, requested that his remains be transplanted to the Land of Israel, when God would take them there (Bereshit / Genesis 50:24).
Egypt served not only to ensure their survival, but it was there that they became a true nation in their own right. They arrived as an extended family of 70 persons and left four hundred years later - two million strong.
This tells us something about God's leading in our lives. Just because he leads us in one direction does not mean that it is forever. The years of Egypt had its purpose, but a time came to move on. Had the persecution not come, we could imagine that it would have been difficult for the people to head back to the Promised Land. Life in Egypt was good. God had led them there. Why go elsewhere?
It is too bad that we often need negative circumstances to move us in the direction that God wants. Wouldn't it be nice if God could just speak and we would do whatever he says? But it doesn't seem to always work that way.
Just because times are hard, however, doesn't mean we are supposed to escape them. That's not why Israel left Egypt. They left because their God-given home was elsewhere, and the time had come to go.
Good times or hard times. God knows what's best when. This is to say that just because God does something in our lives, it does not mean it is forever. We mustn't let our history or circumstances dictate our decisions. We need instead to keep our attention fixed on the God who loves us and knows best.
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