Working Our Way to the Top by Shimon Cohen


The Pesach Haggadah, in recounting the history of the Jews, reads, "VaEtein LeYitzchak Et Ya’akov VeEt Eisav. VaEtein LeEisav Et Har Seir LaReshet Oto, VeYaakov UVanav Yaredu Mitzrayim", "And I gave to Yitzchak Yaacov and Eisav. To Eisav I gave Mount Seir to inherit, and Yaacov and his sons went to down to Egypt".   Why does Eisav get the good real estate, the fertile land of Har Seir? Why does Ya’akov get forced down to Egypt? Why are his descendants slaves while Eisav's have nice homes?

We can use a parable to explain this.  There was a very wealthy man with two sons, one of whom he loved more than the other, and he figured out a way to treat them.  He gave the one who was loved less half a million dollars and sent him on his way.  The son who was deeply cared for was forced to start working for the father in the stockroom at the standard salary. He worked work his way up to eventually become a partner in the business. The Jewish people, the children of Ya’akov, are the loved sons. They are forced to work their way out of Egypt to prepare themselves for their role in history.  Each struggle the Jews experienced was required to build them up to be a strong people.

Rav Chaim Volozhin wrote that Eliyahu HaNavi once offered to teach the most enigmatic parts of the Torah to the Vilna Ga’on.  The Ga’on declined his offer. He understood that true Torah knowledge requires hard work to learn and it cannot simply be given.  

The Midrash writes that that even after Hashem sent the eastern wind to split the Yam Suf, it still required effort from the Jews. Nachshon ben Aminadav was in the water up to his nostrils before the sea was passable.

The Jews have experienced times of peril throughout their history.  Even when the going gets tough, they realize that Hashem is working behind the scene, and everything will work out for the best.  Those like Nachshon ben Aminadav keep their faith and wait until things finally turn for the better.

Adapted from a Devar Torah by Rav Yaacov Haber

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