The exile to Egypt begins with a verse in this week's Torah portion, "Joseph went down [in Hebrew, 'hurad'] to Egypt". According to the Midrash (Bereishit 6b), the word "hurad" has three different meanings: A) From the word "yerida", meaning "going down", because Joseph first went as a slave and later as a prisoner; B) from the word "r'diya", which means "control", because ultimately he became a leader in Egypt; C) from the word "horeed", meaning to lower something else - that Joseph brought the Shechinah into Egypt.

These three explanations describe Joseph's dealing with his exile. So too, they describe how the Jewish people dealt with their life in Egypt, as well as how each of us deals with our own environment in this current exile.

We transform the exile until the exile itself helps us to reach our destination….

According to the first explanation, we experience life's challenges as a sort of exile, perceived as an obstacle to the fulfillment of goals and therefore one is constantly at battle to conquer and overcome. The problem with this perspective is that the exile becomes a force of its own to be constantly dealt with. Even if victorious, the battle leaves its impact on the person - his or her clothes become war-torn.

Alternately, according to the second perspective, a person sees him or herself as always moving up, someone in control. There are no obstacles, only steps to achieve goals. In fact, this perspective makes reality conform - the exile bends before us, and we move ahead! Obviously, the advantage of this view is that there is no battle. Unfortunately, the problem is the exile has not been conquered, and in one false move, a person can slip from that high spiritual consciousness only to be overwhelmed by these challenges.

The third possibility is to bring the Shechinah with us. It is with the strength of the Shechinah that we transform the exile - until the exile itself helps us to reach our destination. This is the highest level, because the exile is transformed into something positive. This was the achievement of Joseph. From one perspective, Joseph was ripped from his nurturing, spiritually elevated environment - the protection and teachings of his father, Jacob - forced against his will to deal with the lowliness of Egypt. Nevertheless, the Shechinah was with him, helping him to become Egypt's leader and make the exile serve him and his family to achieve their goals.

The Torah speaks about this because this is a strength that Joseph shares with all of the Jewish People. We should not become depressed from the harshness of the exile in which we live. Rather, we must remember that we have brought the Shechinah with us. Let the Shechinah bring Divinity around you. This is the strength through which we will merit to bring the final and lasting redemption immediately.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah, Shaul

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