The beginning of Parshat Ki Tavo deals with the laws of Bikkurim. When one goes to Yerushalayim to offer his Bikkurim, he recites a passage that begins, “Arami Oveid Avi VaYeired Miztraymah VaYagor Sham,” “An Aramean (Lavan) tried to destroy my forefather (Yaakov), and he descended to Egypt and sojourned there” (Devarim 26:5). At first glance, these two incidences do not relate to each other. What does Lavan’s attempt to destroy Yaakov have to do with Yaakov’s descent to Miztrayim? Why does the Torah juxtapose these two events?
Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that in Sefer Bersheit (32:5), Rashi comments that despite all the trials and hardships to which Yaakov was subjected in Lavan’s house, he nonetheless remained steadfast in his commitment to Hashem. Had he never experienced Lavan’s house and the spiritual and physical trials it presented, Yaakov would not have willingly taken his family to Mitzrayim. Although Yosef was the Mishneh LaMelech, had great power in Mitzrayim and did not waver from his devotion to Hashem, Yaakov would not have wanted to expose his family to the lifestyle there, thereby taking a chance that other family members would not remain committed to Hashem like Yosef did.
Hashem wanted Yaakov to enter Mitzrayim of his own free will and not to be forced there as Yosef was. It was therefore necessary for Yaakov to spend time in Lavan’s house to be assured that he could handle and overcome attempts to destroy his family. Later on, Yaakov would then agree to descend to Mitzrayim since he had already overcome hardships in his life. Thus, Lavan’s attempt to destroy Yaakov was necessary before Yaakov could voluntarily go to Mitzrayim. Therefore, those two events are connected by the Mikra Bikkurim ceremony.
The Netziv (TABC Talmid Gabi Wiseman is a nephew of the Netziv) offers another explanation. The Gemara (Pesachim 87b) comments that when the first Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, our ancestors were destined to be exiled to Aram. However, when Hashem saw how cruel the Arameans were, he exiled Bnei Yisael to Bavel instead. This same idea applied to Yaakov with Lavan. Avraham’s descendants were destined to be exiled, as the Brit Bein HaBetarim had promised. Yaakov’s 22 years spent in Aram could have been the start of the 400-year exile (see Rabbi Jachter’s article on this topic available at www.koltorah.org). However, when Hashem saw how poorly Lavan treated Yaakov, He decided to send him down to Miztrayim to begin the exile there. Thus, these two incidents are recorded in the same Pasuk because the Galut in Mitzrayim is a direct result of Yaakov’s suffering at the hands of Lavan.
The Netziv’s explanation teaches us a powerful lesson. Although it may have appeared that Yaakov suffered needlessly at Lavan’s hands, that suffering actually eased the much longer exile in store. Hashem always has a plan; nothing happens accidentally. With true Bitachon in Hashem, we will be able to weather any hardship with the knowledge that it is for our ultimate good.