This week’s Parsha begins by telling us “Vayechi Yaakov Bieretz Mitzrayim Shiva Esrei Shanah” (47:28). If the Torah records that Yaakov was 130 years old when he went down to Egypt and that he was 147 years old when he died, then why is it necessary to mention that he was in Mitzrayim for 17 years? By doing simple math one could have figured this out!
The Tzemach Tzedeck’s Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson, (the 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe) explained that the Torah specifically writes Yaakov was there for 17 years because these were the best years of his life. This idea can be seen in the word Tov, good, whose Gematria is 17.
However, why were these 17 years the best ones of Yaakov’s life? How could one live the best year’s of his life in a Galut such as Egypt, where people committed adultery, worshiped Avoda Zara, and stole from each other? The Alter Rebbe explains that before Yaakov went down to Egypt, his son, Yehudah, built a Yeshiva there to give people the opportunity to learn Torah. Consequently, now Yaakov’s life was vibrant and full of reward as Jews would learn Torah and pass it on to future generations. Thus, even in this Galut Yaakov was able to enjoy the rest of his life knowing that there were Jews that were committed to Hashem and would pass on what he learned from his Rabbeim.
When a Jew learns Torah, no matter where he is, he instantly becomes closer to Hashem. It is said that Hashem’s Shechinah listens in on the discussion of a Chavruta immersed in Torah. Therefore, no matter where you are, Torah can instantly connect you to Hashem and sanctify your location.