Yaakov began his journey to Egypt. While stopping at Be'er Sheva, God appears to him in a dream and proclaims, "I am the God of your father Yitzchak. Do not fear to go down to Egypt... I will go down with you into Egypt and will surely bring you back" (45:3-4). What fear is God referring to here? Moreover, why is He convincing Yaakov, who had already packed his bags and was well on his way, to go down to Egypt? Rashi asserts that Yaakov was afraid to leave the Land of Israel; his father, Yitzchak, had been instructed not to leave the land and he feared that this command applied to himself as well.
We may question, however, why Yaakov would be worried about this either. He was already at Be'er Sheva and did not seem worried about this problem. Furthermore, Yaakov had already lived outside Israel for twenty-two years in Lavan's house and he knew that his father's restrictions did not apply to him! The Netziv contends that although Yaakov was not afraid for himself, he feared that his children would assimilate into Egyptian culture and lose their unique identity. Thus, God declares "I will make them a great nation there" (45:3), proclaiming that, even in Egypt, Israel will always retain its special national character. Chizkuni states that Yaakov feared that he was entering the exile which God had foretold to Avraham. God, therefore, assured Yaakov that this exile was only the first part of His promise to Avraham. Yaakov's descendants would become a great nation and eventually return to their native land. God declares that it is in Egypt that Israel will find itself. God will himself go down with Yaakov and will bring his children out again.
The immediate and direct result of Yosef's accomplishment is recorded in this week's Parsha. After Yaakov discovered that his son Yosef was alive and well, the Torah states, "And the spirit of their father, Yaakov, was restored to life" (Bereishit 45,27). Rashi quotes Chazal who explains that Yaakov's spirit here refers to the return of Hashem's Divine Presence to Yaakov. Due to Yosef's absence from Yaakov's household Hashem's Divine Presence ceased to rest upon Yaakov. Now, after twenty-two long years the household of Yaakov was finally reunited and the Divine Presence of Hashem returned to Yaakov. Due to Yosef's absence from Yaakov's household Hashem's Divine Presence ceased to rest upon Yaakov. Now, after twenty-two long years, the household of Yaakov was finally reunited and the Divine Presence of Hashem returned to Yaakov.
This final result is indicative of the future experience of the Jewish people. They will also be divided for thousands of years and Yosef and the Ten Tribes will be lost from Israel. This division, as in the days of Yaakov, will force Hashem to remove His presence from amongst the remainder of Israel. But the time will eventually come for the Jewish people to reunite and the kingdom of Yosef and Yehuda will become one inseparable entity. In response to this miraculous development of unity Hashem will return His Divine Presence to the Jewish people and the spirit of Israel will be revived forever.
This is an appropriate lesson for these times of so much diversity among us. We pray not only for unification but also for respect for each other’s difference.