These past few months, I have had a heaviness of heart for our country. My family was military for over 20 years. My dad served this country faithfully and inadvertently died from the effects of that service (cancer from Agent Orange). Members of my husband’s family served in WWII, in modern times, and in the National Guard. That love of country has been a part of our family for generations.
However, that country we have so loved is dying and may very well be nearly gone. I have prayed and grieved for the United States, as well as the uncertain future that we, as followers of The Way, will have to face in a world that is hostile to the Truth. A friend re-posted a memory on her Facebook wall that really resonated with me. It’s from Jeremiah 15:19-21:
Assuredly, thus said the LORD: If you turn back, I shall take you back and you shall stand before Me: If you produce what is noble out of the worthless, you shall be My spokesman. They shall come back to you, not you to them. Against this people I will make you as a fortified wall of bronze: they will attack you, but they shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver and save you – declares the LORD. I will save you from the hands of the wicked and rescue you from the clutches of the violent. (The Jewish Publication Society Tanakh)
So last night I prayed for G-d to redirect this heaviness of heart to learning and discipleship with Him, so that if a day comes when I no longer have access to the books and teachings that I rely on, I will have that stored in my heart. I asked Him to keep my sight focused on Him and ha’olam haba, the world to come. I asked Him to redirect this tie to earthly things to service to Him. I asked Him to help me speak Truth boldly and in wisdom. I asked Him to make something out of the worthlessness of this fear and grief that I carry.
This morning, I was reading this week’s parsha, Vayechi. I went to Chabad.com to read some commentary on this portion and the first thing that I read seemed like a direct answer to my prayer and I wanted to share that.
The first verse (Gen. 47:28) is: “Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; and the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were a hundred and forty-seven years.” And from Chabad.org: “According to the Midrash Baal HaTurim, these 17 years were the best years of his life –years of prosperity, goodness, and peace; his other 130 years were filled with toil and pain.”
(Just a note, while “baal” is a term used for a false god, it is also the term used for master. In this context, it is used as “master” for Rabbeinu Jacob ben Asher from the 13th century. It literally means “Master of the Columns.” The term “columns” comes from his work, one of the most important halachic books, Arba’ah Turim, which was divided in four sections, each called a “tur,” which alludes to the columns of jewels on the High Priest’s breastplate.)
It was the next part of this commentary that impressed itself upon me. It seems when the Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel was a child, he asked his grandfather, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi how it was that Jacob’s best years were lived in pagan Egypt? His grandfather replied that it was written that Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to show the way to Goshen. “The Midrash explains that this was to establish a house of learning, where the sons of Jacob would study Torah. When one studies Torah, one is brought close to G-d, so that even in Egypt one can live a true ‘life.’”
And that’s my Torah-Bite thought for the day. No matter where we are, when we carry Torah in our hearts, when we draw close to HaShem, we can live our best lives even in pagan Egypt. For we are a fortified wall that, though attacked, will not be overcome, because our G-d delivers and saves.