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Chumash-Vayigash     Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer



(5748) Rashi (Gen: 46:3): "Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt". The reason that Rashi explains that "he was troubled at being compelled to leave the Holy Land." (and not like the Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer ( beginning of 39) or Ramban and Chizkuni and others).

The reason that we do not find that he was troubled when he went to Charan  



1. On the verse (Gen. 46:3):

“And He said, "I am G-d, the G-d of your father. Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation”

Rashi cites the words: “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt”

and states:

(G-d encouraged him) because he was distressed at being compelled to go out of the Holy Land (Chutz L’Aretz)”

(אל תירא מרדה מצרימה: לפי שהיה מיצר על שנזקק לצאת לחוצה לארץ)

With this comment, Rashi innovates two aspects (as compared to the simple meaning of the verse):

  1. In the verse, it states, “Do not be afraid” and Rashi changes this and writes, “Because he was distressed”. “Fear” and “distress” are two difference feelings (even though they have a commonality).

(As we find in the previously verse “Yaakov was very frightened and distressed” and as Targum Onkelos translates that “he was afraid . . and distressed”.

In other words,

  • “Fear” is a feeling of worry (דאגה) for a future occurrence that could possibly harm the person.
  • Whereas, “distress” depicts a feeling of pressure and pain, and distress (דוחק וצער ועגמת נפש). This also fits in connection with certain pain (צרה ודאית) in the present or in the past).
  1. In the verse it states “(Do not be afraid of) going down to Egypt”. Whereas Rashi changes and writes, “going out of the Holy Land”. In other words his fear was (not from descending to Egypt, which is expressly written in the verse, but rather) from going out of the Holy Land, wherever it might be, Egypt or another land.

One could say that the two changes are dependent upon each other:

  • The descent to Egypt

(to a new land, in general, and especially to Egypt, as will be explained in par. 2)

awakens fear (and worry).

  • And the going out of Eretz Yisroel (to Chutz L’Aretz) does not awaken fear, but rather pain and distress (as it states, “he was distressed”).

However, one must examine this:

What is Rashi‘s reason for taking the verse out of its simple meaning?

2. Rashi’s source of his comment is (seemingly) in Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer who writes:

“Jacob heard concerning Joseph that he was alive, and he was thinking in his heart, saying: How can I forsake the land of my fathers, the land of my birth, and the land where the Shechinah of the Holy One, blessed be He, is in its midst, and shall I go to the land of the descendants of Cham, to a land where there is no fear of Heaven among them?”

This is very puzzling:

Even Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer,

(whose commentary is (also) according to homily (Derash))

does not suffice with just the concern of going from the land, as it states Yaakov “thought in his heart: Can I forsake the land of my fathers?“ Rather he continues that that the doubt and worry was also on the place where he was going, as it states, “shall I go to the land of the descendants of Cham, to a land where there is no fear of Heaven among them? “. In other words, this fits with what is expressly stated in the verse, namely that Yaakov feared “descending to Egypt”.

Specifically Rashi, who only comes to explain the simple understanding of the verse, does not mention at all, his fear of descending Egypt, but rather only the distress etc. of going (from the Holy land) to Chutz l’Aretz!

(One cannot answer that the concern “there is no fear of Heaven among them“ (in the land of Egypt) is not according to the simple understanding of the verse. For we already previously find an example, with regard to Egypt, in the simple understanding of the verse. Regarding Pharaoh’s words to Avraham, “Take (her) and go “, where Rashi explains, “Unlike Avimelech who told him, "Here is my land before you.” However, (instead, Pharaoh) told him, "Go, do not remain here for the Egyptians are permeated with lewdness“).


According to Rashi’s comment it is problematic. How does he resolve the continuation of the verse, namely that G-d removed Yaakov’s distressed by promising him that “there I will make you into a great nation”?

According to the aforementioned Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer, that Yaakov feared descending Egypt because there is no fear of Heaven among them and he was concerned that his sons would assimilate among the Egyptians, and learn from their deeds etc., it is understood. For when G-D told him “there I will make you into a great nation”, he was relieved, for with this G-D promised that his sons would not intermingle among them.

However, according to Rashi, namely, that Yaakov was distressed about his having to go to Chutz L’Aretz, it is not understood:

How was Yaakov’s distress assuaged by the promise of “I will make you into a great nation”, which does not negate, seemingly, the reason for his distress?

3. Seemingly, one could explain, that the reason that Rashi does not explain that Yaakov’s distress of descending to Egypt was because of the lack of fear of Heaven among them – is because:

When Yosef said to this brothers:

“Hasten and go up to my father, and say to him. . Come down to me. . and you shall be near to me, you and your children and your grandchildren. . for there are still five years of famine“,

Yaakov was told that a special place would be established in Egypt for him to dwell, as it states “you shall dwell in the land of Goshen. . And I will sustain you there“. The simple meaning of this is that they would have a place to dwell among themselves.

(As it actually happened, according to the simple understanding of the verse, as it states: “On that day, I will set apart the land of Goshen upon which My people stand (dwell)“ and “in the land of Goshen where Bnei Yisroel were“. In other words that they dwelled, even in a separate land, and they did not intermingle with the Egyptians).

Therefore, it is simply understood that there is no place to fear from the conduct of the Egyptians, since they did not dwell with them together. Rather they dwelled in their own land – Goshen.

However, it is very difficult to say that this forces one to take the verse out of its simple meaning.

(and to explain that when it says “do not fear descending to Egypt”, the intent thereof is not for the worry of descending to Egypt, but rather the distress of going from Eretz Yisroel to Chutz L’Aretz)

For even though one cannot compare the situation of Yaakov and his sons – seventy souls and more – in Egypt to the situation of Avraham and Sarah when they descended to Egypt

(So much so, that pharaoh had to send them from there)

since Yaakov and his sons dwelled in the land of Goshen.

Nevertheless, it is simply understood, that the descent to the land of Egypt, where the people were well-known for their extremely disgusting behavior, which is the complete opposite of the fear of Heaven,

(Both in immorality (בג"ע) where they were permeated with lewdness, as aforementioned, as well as in idol worship (ע"ז) as it states “sheep which the Egyptians worship“, and more.)

 that this was enough to awaken the worry and fear of Yaakov.

Nevertheless, Rashi takes the verse out of the simple context, and explains that Yaakov was distressed for going from Eretz Yisroel to Chutz L’Aretz!

4. Many of the commentators on Torah explain:

“Yaakov was afraid and said ‘now that I am descending to Egypt, the days are approaching where it was said to my grandfather regarding the decree of servitude and affliction on my descendants, in a land that is not theirs”

So too, Targum Yonason ben Uziel explains:

“Do not be afraid of descending to Egypt for the purpose of the servitude that was decreed on Avraham”.

In other words that the fear was for the start of the fulfillment of the decree “They will enslave them and oppress them“- Yisroel.

Seemingly, even this explanation fits more with the simple meaning (Pshat), than Rashi’s comment. For according to Rashi, Yaakov’s concern was just for a specific aspect, that concerned him alone (namely that he would be compelled to go to Chutz L’Aretz). Whereas according to this explanation, there was a general concern, with regard to the Jewish people (Yaakov’s descendants), in general.

(And even the continuation of verse “there I will make you into a great nation”, fits more according to this explanation. as the Chizkuni states:

“G-D told him ‘do not fear descending to Egypt. If I warned your father, I am coming to you to promise you that if the days of servitude and affliction are approaching, also the days of the blessing that I blessed your grandfather, namely that I will make him into a great nation – are also approaching. In other words, there I will make you into a great nation “

In other words that the promise “there I will make you into a great nation” has a connection and relation to the fulfillment of the Covenant between the Parts).

If so, why does Rashi not explain that Yaakov feared from the decree of the Covenant between the Parts?

For according to Rashi’s previous comment on the verse:

“And the spirit of their father Jacob was revived“ that “The Shechinah, which had separated from him (because of his grief), rested upon him (once again) “,

it is probable to say that Yaakov knew that the descent to Egypt was the beginning of the fulfillment of the decree of the Covenant between the Parts.

(Seemingly, it is possible to say that this explanation of the phrase “do not fear” is difficult to say, according to the simple understanding of the verse.

For this does not change his knowing that this is the fulfillment of G-d’s decree. However, this is not a sufficient answer. For Rashi could have explained (like he anyway explained, as aforementioned) that Yaakov was distressed that now, the time of “They will enslave them and oppress them”, had arrived. As is understood, that even when we know that the decree is G-d’s Will, nevertheless this is an aspect that awakens distress).

5. One could say that the explanation of this is:

In the previous verses, it is already told about Yaakov’s decision to going down to Egypt. As it states:

“And Israel said, "Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die “

Moreover, he already began to descend there as it states:

“And Israel and all that was his set out“.

Since this is so, it is puzzling. What was the purpose of this statement “do not fear going down“, which implies that Yaakov was still in doubt and afraid of going down to Egypt? This statement would have been fitting before his decision to go down to Egypt, or at least before he actually began to go there.

Therefore, Rashi explains that “do not fear descending to Egypt” does not mean that he feared and was afraid to begin (going there), but rather that “he was distressed at being compelled to leave“. In other words, that he was distressed about the deed that he was actually doing.

However, it is not understood:

Why was this promise

of “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt” that came to assuage his distress,

delayed until after he (travelled from his place and) reached Be’er Sheva, which caused Yaakov distress this entire time?

Therefore, one must say that here (in Be’er Sheva) a certain aspect was innovated, because of which Yaakov then needed G-d’s “comfort” of the promise “Do not be afraid etc.” Therefore, Rashi explains that he was distressed for having to go to Chutz L’Aretz, and not that he was specifically distressed about descending to Egypt.

The explanation of this is:

Be’er Sheva is a border place (מקום הגבול). It is the last city in the south of Eretz Yisroel, from which one departs to Chutz L’Aretz. Therefore, even though his initial travelling was for the purpose of departing the Land and going down to Egypt. Moreover, that this journey was through happiness etc. as it states: “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die“. Nevertheless, when he reached the outermost border of Eretz Yisroel, at the juncture actually of going to Chutz L’Aretz – he was distressed and pained that in reality, he was actually compelled go to Chutz L’Aretz.

Even though, when he immediately left his place (from Chevron) he knew that in the future he would leave the Land. Nevertheless, the distress of knowing that he would ultimately have to leave, is not comparable to the distress of actually getting ready to leave, as we actually see.

(This is similar to the words of R’ Yehoshua b. Korcha that Rashi cites previously (in Parshat Bereshit) that:

 “A gentile asked R’ Yehoshua b. Korcha "Do you not agree that G-d knows the future?" He (the Rabbi) answered: "Yes." He said to him: "But, it is written, 'And it grieved His Heart!' " He (the Rabbi) responded to him, "Was a son ever born to you?" "Yes," he said. "How did you react?" he asked him. He said, "I rejoiced and made everyone joyful." So he asked him, "But, did you not realize that he would eventually die?" He (the gentile) responded, "At the time of joy let there by joy etc. “)

6. However, according to this, the puzzlement is even greater. Why does the verse continue “there I will make you into a great nation”?

Since Yaakov was not afraid that by descending to Egypt, his sons would possibly assimilate among the nations there, and so forth. Rather he was distressed for being compelled go to Chutz L’Aretz, how did this promise, “there I will make you into a great nation”, assuage his distress for having to go to Chutz L’Aretz, as aforementioned?

This can be understood by prefacing an explanation in the reason and cause for Yaakov’s distress of having to go to Chutz L’Aretz. For seemingly it is not understood. When Yaakov went to Charan, to Lavan’s house, it does not state that he was distressed for having to going to Chutz L’Aretz?

To explain this better:

It has already been explained in another place, that in the simple understanding of the verse, we do not find that the Avot were careful about going from Eretz Yisroel to Chutz L’Aretz. For even though the Avot fulfilled the entire Torah, even before it was given, as is explained in Rashi with regard to Avraham that he even fulfilled the decrees and even the Rabbinic prohibitions concerning Shabbat. Nevertheless, they were not careful in the prohibition of departing the Land.

The reason for this was, that (according to Pshat) in the time of the Avot, Eretz Yisroel was not yet distinguished from the other lands, in its holiness. Moreover – in their time, there was not yet a change in the ownership of the land (that it would be under the ownership of Yisroel).

And although Rashi explains that G-d’s command to Yitzchak “Do not go down to Egypt” was because “you are a burnt-offering without blemish and being outside the Holy land does not befit you “.


  1. This just concerned Yitzchak who was a “burnt-offering without blemish“
  2. Even in this, Rashi precisely states (and does not write that he was forbidden from leaving the Land, and so forth, but) “Chutz L’Aretz does not befit you“.

One could say that the difference between Eretz Yisroel and Chutz L’Aretz in the era of the Avot (even with regard to Yitzchak) was not because there was holiness in the object (בהחפצא) of the land itself. Rather it was just that there (in Eretz Yisroel) Avraham effected that G-D was “the G-D of the heavens and the G-D of the earth” – “he made g-d’s name current on everyone's tongue“

Whereas in Chutz L’Aretz, where G-D was just at the level of “G-d of the heavens” and not “G-d of the earth” – “humanity did not acknowledge Him and His Name was not common on earth“ (in Chutz L’Aretz).

(With this, one can also understand, the precise wording of Rashi regarding Yaakov that “he was distressed at being compelled to go to Chutz L’Aretz“ (and not – “to go from the Land”). Similarly, in addition, his words regarding Yitzchak – “Chutz L’Aretz does not befit you“.

For in the time of the Avot, the holiness of the Land was still not enough of a reason that there should be an obligation to remain in the Land)

According to all this, a reason is needed. Why was Yaakov distressed for having to going to Chutz L’Aretz (for the plain wording depicts that he was distressed about going to a place that is outside of Eretz Yisroel – and not because he was compelled go to a strange land).

The explanation of this is:

Yaakov’s condition then, was different than his condition when he went to Lavan’s house (and also different than the condition of Avraham and Yitzchak when they went to Chutz L’Aretz) in this regard.

For at the time of this departure, there were already seventy souls, besides his wives and children. This was the beginning of Bnei Yisroel as an independent nation. Seemingly, their proper place is the land of Canaan, the land of his fathers’ sojournings, the land that was promised to each one of the three Avot. There they would become a great nation, like G-d’s promise to Avraham, “I will make you into a great nation” – specifically in Eretz Yisroel.

Therefore, he was specifically distressed about this departure, where he had to go to Chutz L’Aretz. For the place of the “soul of the house of Yaakov”( נפש בית יעקב) was supposed to be (according to his view) in the land of Canaan. Therefore, G-d answered him, “there I will make you into a great nation”. For on the contrary, the “great nation” of the Jewish people would specifically be attained “there” – in Chutz L’Aretz.

7. From the homiletic style of Torah in Rashi's commentary here (Yayina shel Torah):

In the end, this seemingly requires explanation:

Since the intent of G-d’s promise (according to Rashi) was to remove Yaakov’s pain (i.e. his “distress”), why does it state, “Do not fear descending to Egypt”

One could say according to allusion (Remez), that the statement, “do not fear descending to Egypt” comes to remove just the fear and trepidation of Yaakov from the descent to Egypt. However, not that it removed “his distress at being compelled to Chutz L’Aretz”.

For the feeling of distress for going to Chutz L’Aretz cannot be removed. On the contrary, this pain is the very thing that nullifies the reason and the aspect that causes the fear of going down to Egypt.

This is also the allusion in Rashi’s words: “Do not fear descending to Egypt”. “because (לפי) he was distressed etc.“

because (לפי)” denotes the giving of a reason (נתינת טעם). In other words, “Why should Yaakov not fear descending to Egypt?” – “because he was distressed at being compelled to Chutz L’Aretz”.

The explanation of this is:

The aspect of G-d’s words to Yaakov when he descended into the Galut of Egypt (“Do not fear etc.”) is a lesson (even) to his descendants in all generations and places when they are in Galut. Namely, that the feeling and connection to Galut must contain two opposite emotions:

“It was not by our will that we were exiled from Eretz Yisroel . . Our Father, our King, blessed be He, sent us into exile, and He will redeem us”, 


it is understood that we have been given all the powers that are needed to overcome all the barriers and obstacles etc., in the time of Galut; and to be able to serve G-d properly.

Moreover – specifically through the Avodah in the time of Galut, notwithstanding all the concealments and hidings on the fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvot, and those that scoff etc., this leads to the revelation of the greatness and strength of Bnei Yisroel – as it states “there I will make you into a great nation“ (as is explained in many places).

  • On one hand, each person of Bnei Yisroel must know that they do not have to fear and be afraid of Galut. For since:
  • However, on the other hand, together with the negation of the fear of Galut, one must feel the “distress” and pain of the Galut. In other words that the connection to the condition of the Galut should not, G-d forbid, be with a feeling of peace and tranquility. Rather, on the contrary – with an emotion of constant pain that Bnei Yisroel are not in their true place, but rather like children who were exiled from the table of their father. In addition, it is not just that the children and the Jewish people (הבנים וכנס"י) are found in Galut and captivity, but (also) like the words of G-d to Yaakov, “I will go down with you to Egypt“, the Shechinah is in Galut (שכינתא בגלותא).

These two emotions – the lack of fear from Galut and the feeling of the pain of Galut – are dependent upon one another:

This power of a person, namely to rise above Galut so much so that he does not fear and tremble because of it, comes and is drawn down from the feeling and recognition that Galut is not his true place (condition). Therefore, he is distressed for being in Galut and constantly yearns to go out of the condition of Galut and to return to his true place. This yearning itself, lifts him above Galut, so much so that he has no fear and trepidation from the concealments and hidings of Galut.

This is the practical lesson of Rashi’s comment:

If in the beginning of Yaakov’s descent to Egypt he was distressed that he was compelled to go to Chutz L’Aretz, all the more so must a person be distressed for the constraints of Galut in our times. After all the troubles (כל הצרות) that Klal Yisroel experienced in the time of Galut, until our times now, the generation of the heels of Moshiach.

This pain (that he was “distressed”) must be expressed and revealed within each of Yisroel, by crying out to G-D and saying “Ad Mosai - How long will it be until the secret end?" (עד מתי קץ הפלאות) and “Ad Mosai - How long. . will the adversary blaspheme?“ (עד מתי גו' יחרף צר). Moreover, one must demand (לדרוש) etc. the Geulah from G-d, as has been spoken of many times based on sources from the Midrashim of the Sages, and from the early and latter codifiers, from whose mouth we live.

This crying out and demanding itself (וצעקה ודרישה זו עצמה) will hasten and bring close, even more, the true and complete Geulah though our righteous Moshiach, as it states “and I will also bring you up“, speedily and in our days, mamosh.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Vayigash 5746


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