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Vayigash. The Secret of Jewish Survival

In Parashat Vayigash, the family of Jacob move to Egypt; the very first “diaspora community”. And here, our midrashim and commentaries give us pause to think about how Jews retain their identity as a minority in a majority culture.

Here I would like to refer to two very different sources:

1. Positive Identity: Torah Study

“He sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to direct him to Goshen…” (46:28)

Why is Judah sent ahead of the family? Rashi explains:

“The Aggadic interpretation of [לְהוֹרֹת] is [that there should be teaching of Torah]: to establish for him a house of study, from which teaching would emanate.” [Tanhuma]

In the mind of the Midrash, Jacob wants a Beit Midrash set up even before the family arrives. That is the most pressing need for the family when it settles in Egypt.