By Rabbi Yakov Wagner
Dear Bochurim and Yungerleit, sheyichyu,
In sicha after sicha and farbrengen after farbrengen on Shabbos parshas Vayechi the Rebbe addressed the question – Why is the conclusion of parshas Vayechi, and indeed the entire sefer Bereshis – the first book of the Torah – a verse that has such a morose tone to it; “(Yosef) was placed in an ‘aron’ (coffin) in Mitzrayim”?
To answer this question I would like to share the following short story with you that I heard – second hand – several weeks ago, and occurred not that long ago:
A woman from Sydney Australia who was learning more about Yiddishkeit and becoming more observant found her curiosity piqued when a “Rebbe dollar” was auctioned off in a Chabad fundraiser for seven thousand dollars. When the significance of the dollar was explained to her it aroused in her a desire to receive somehow or other her own Rebbe dollar, and this desire grew greater and greater as she tried to devise ways to realize it.
Her husband had study sessions with Robert Kremnitzer, an Australian business man who visited the Rebbe numerous times and merited to be by Yechidus on several occasions. She figured that he would be a good resource to turn to, and requested from her husband to tell Robert the next time they studied together how much she wanted a Rebbe dollar and ask whether he could help her get one. Despite the discomfort her husband acceded to his wife’s wishes.
When Robert heard the request he said that the couple should come to him for Shabbos. After Shabbos he brought the couple into his study, and opening a sefer on the shelf he removed a dollar and gave it to them. Emotionally he told them that this dollar he had received from the Rebbe seventeen years earlier with instructions to “give it to the Jewish woman in Sydney when she will ask for it”!
We all know that, despite the fact we have just commemorated the tenth of Teves with fasting and mournful reflection, from the perspective of Chassidus the beginning of destruction was in fact – as we will appreciate after the coming of Moshiach speedily – the start of the construction of the third Bais Hamikdash. We have all heard countless times that ‘yerida zu tzorech aliya’, the descent and difficulties of exile are only a temporary preclude – and in perspective minor inconvenience – to the great geulah we will enjoy in the times of Moshiach.
But a bitter question remains – how do we last until then!? With all the challenges, with all the hardships, with all the darkness and tribulations – how can we have the strength to endure this exile and last until we enjoy the benefits of our renovations?
The answer the Torah tells us just before parshas Shemos which begins the story of exile and redemption. Although the era of Yaakov and Yosef – an era of revelation and clarity of purpose – had apparently come to a close, we are not left alone. Yosef remains in Mitzrayim! Yaakov Avinu lo mes! True it is no longer openly apparent, but when we scratch the surface of the exile, of the Mitzrayim, we find that Yosef is still there together with us, encouraging us and helping us along – subtly, from the background, so that the accomplishment can be entirely our own. And from this knowledge we are able to draw the greatest strength, chazak chazak v’nischazek, so that we can complete our missions and immediately march into the final redemption, the geulah she’ein achreho golus.