with Rav Avigdor Miller
Seeing the Secrets of the World
Part I. Seeing Your Children
When Yaakov Avinu received the message from Mitzrayim that עוֹד יוֹסֵף חַי, that his son Yosef was still alive, he was overwhelmed with emotion – he went crazy with simcha. “My son is alive?! After all these years that I didn’t see him; all this time I thought he was dead, and now you tell me he’s alive!”
So what did Yaakov say when he heard the good news? Maybe he said, “Baruch Hashem. I thank You Hashem so much from the bottom of my heart.” Or maybe he sang to Hashem, “Hodu lashem ki tov! I’m so happy, so grateful to You.” No, that’s not what happened – I’m sure he said that too, but he wasn’t satisfied with just that. The only thing that the Torah tells us is that Yaakov said: אֵלְכָה וְאֶרְאֶנּוּ – I have to go and see him, בְּטֶרֶם אָמוּת – while I’m still alive. “I want to see his face,” said Yaakov.
Now maybe it doesn’t bother you but I think it’s a question. What’s so important about going to see Yosef? Yaakov Avinu had important things to do in this world – he had shleimus to accomplish, dveikus, ahavas Hashem, yiras Hashem. Life is too short to waste on trips to see people! He had to go and see Yosef?! We love our children, we like to see our children, but does a tzadik who knows he’s in this world for the purpose of achieving perfection, have to uproot his life to see his child?
Yaakov has to go down to Mitzrayim now?! He has to forsake Eretz Cana’an, the land where his forefathers lived, the land that was given to him, and go down to Mitzrayim, a land of tumah? It wasn’t like today, you get on a train and you sit for a few hours and you’re there! It was a long and difficult trip. He should have said, “I’m so happy he’s alive! Ooh, wah! What good news! Baruch Hashem he’s alive! I’ll write a letter to him.”
A Visitor in Vilna
The following story is a very queer story, but I have to tell it to you anyhow. The Gra had a sister whom he hadn’t seen for thirteen years and now she came to Vilna and she went to visit her brother: “Oh, my brother! It’s been so long!” So the Gra greeted his sister warmly, he spoke a few words with her, and then he said, “Excuse me, I have to go back to my learning,” and he went back to his seforim.
So she was somewhat discouraged. He saw a tear in her eye and he said to her, “My sister, don’t be upset please. In the next world we’ll have plenty of time to sit and talk.” That’s what the Vilna Gaon said. Now don’t tell this story to other people; it’s only for you to hear; others might not understand. But here in this place, we know that great people live for a purpose and that everything they do is measured and calculated.
Of course that’s for the Gra; don’t get any ideas – since you waste a lot of time anyhow, so your sister whom you haven’t seen for ten years, you can spend a little time talking to her too. But for great people, for Yaakov Avinu, for the Vilna Gaon, for people of great madreigah, we don’t expect them to travel to another country to see a relative.
And so we understand that it wasn’t just a curiosity: “It’s been so many years; I want to see how Yosef looks now.” Yaakov Avinu was a man who was in full control of his thoughts and his emotions – and if he responded to this natural curiosity, if he answered the prompting of this natural desire to see his son, there must have been something to it. And he didn’t merely respond to it – Yaakov made a big deal about it. “I must go down to see Yosef before I die,” said Yaakov. And when he saw him, he said, “Ah! רְאֹה פָנֶיךָ לֹא פִלָּלְתִּי – I never imagined I would see your face” (ibid. 48:11). Something like that needs an explanation.
Seeing Is Believing
And the answer is this; Yaakov Avinu understood the great power of seeing things in this world. He knew that the tremendous emotion of seeing his beloved son would awaken within him a very great reaction of excitement and gratitude to Hashem. Of course, he would be grateful to Hashem anyhow; but Yaakov wanted more than that. He was always searching for ways and means of becoming more Aware of Hashem, and he knew that nothing could compare to the effect of actually seeing his son – the intense gratitude and love of Hashem that would pour from his soul would be unmatched!
You shouldn’t disdain what you’re hearing now. As you sit at your table Shabbos and you’re looking around at the faces of your children; maybe everybody is talking, eating, whatever it is, so you remember what we said here. You look at your child’s face and you’re thinking, “Ah! What a beautiful face! What a beautiful experience this is that Hashem is giving me! I love this child! And the next one too. “Such a sweet face – I love this child! Thank You Hashem for this gift!” You love every one of them tremendously and it should be translated into stimulating your love of Hakodosh Boruch Hu more and more.
There’s a great happiness in seeing your children. Even if your child is not a gadol ba’torah, but he walks b’derech ha’yashar, he’s a shomer torah u’mitzvos, it’s a tremendous happiness to see his face. If Hashem gives you normal good frum children, you should be so happy; you should enjoy them. Enjoy them and thank Hashem every time you see them. You enjoy the child’s face and while you’re doing it you’re thinking, “I’m not doing it merely because I want to have nachas; I’m doing it because I want to love Hakodosh Boruch Hu who gave me this tremendous experience to see my child’s face.
More Than Olam Habo
Let me tell you about a tragedy. I once was a sandek at a bris and the little baby’s father had died before he was born. I was weeping as I was sitting with the child on my knee. Everybody was saying, “Mazel tov, mazel tov!” but I was weeping because the father wasn’t there anymore. And I had to turn away because I was weeping. I didn’t want to weep tears on the child’s face so I turned my face away.
If the father could have seen that child before he died, what he would have given?! I knew the father – if he could have come back and taken one look, just one look on his child’s face, I’m sure he’d give up a big piece of Olam Habo. And not just because of curiosity, because of a natural instinct, but because he would have fallen in love with Hashem a thousand times over! He would have achieved great levels in gratitude to Hashem and in ahavas Hashem just from seeing his son’s face.
Now, Yaakov understood this great opportunity for love of Hashem, more than this father. Yaakov understood that there’s an especial form of avodah in this world of using your eyes to be reminded of Hashem and he didn’t want to miss that opportunity. Certainly, just hearing the news of Yosef brought him great joy and gratitude to Hashem, but he wanted to set his eyes on Yosef and feast on that sight: “Ah! The face of my beloved son!”
It’s a very important lesson that Yaakov is teaching us – the avodah of using our eyes to awaken our neshama. And if we understand it properly, it opens for us a new and extraordinary vista of avodas Hashem.
Part II. Seeing The World
Loyalty Is Not Enough
You know, many frum people are very loyal to Hakodosh Boruch Hu – extraordinarily loyal. They live lives filled with mitzvos and Torah, and they’re raising families of ovdei Hashem – it’s beautiful to see! They believe in Hashem so much that they’d even be willing to endure torture, to go into fire or to face the sword or the hangman for their belief in Hashem. It’s an Am Kadosh – a holy nation. There’s no nation like the Am Yisroel.
But I have to tell you something now that will surprise you. Hakodosh Boruch Hu says that it’s not enough. Yes, it’s loyalty, it’s remarkable loyalty, and you’ll be rewarded for that. Hashem will reward you for that to no end, no question. But all of us have an even more important function than that in this world; more important than loyalty. We’re here to become Aware of Hashem, to feel Hashem. We’re expected to take that knowledge we have, that Hashem is the Borei Yisborach who created and manages the world, and to transform it into the feeling that it is actually so, something that we really know because we’ve seen and experienced it.
That’s our job in this world – to find ways and means of taking this great truth of the existence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu and make it more real to us. And what Yaakov Avinu was teaching us – “I have to go and see him” – is that one of the most important ways of becoming constantly aware of Hakodosh Boruch Hu is using our eyes in this world.
The World Is For Seeing
וְהָאֱלֹקִים עָשָׂה שֶׁיִּרְאוּ מִלְּפָנָיו – Hashem made so that people should learn yiras Hashem (Koheles 3:14). What did He make? Everything! And why did He make it? So that we should become Aware of Him. Yirah means to be Aware of Hashem, and Shlomo Hamelech is telling us here that yiras Hashem is everywhere in this world — but it’s on one condition: you have to use your eyes to see it!
It’s a great sadness that people walk through this world with their eyes closed. Every natural object was created for the purpose of yiras Hashem — there’s no other purpose of shamayim va’aretz except to give us that great gift of becoming Aware of Hashem. Not merely to gain our consent, that we should say, “Yes, we admit – Hashem made the world.” No; that you knew already from when you began learning chumash. Bereishis bara Elokim – you accepted it right away at the age of five or six years old and since then, you never thought about that subject. You’re a ma’amin now so you think you’re finished! But that’s a great pity because Bereishis bara Elokim is a subject you should be studying all your life.
If we desire to fulfill our purpose here, we need to open our eyes and the sights begin to crowd in on us. They are so numerous that there is no empty space in the world. מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ הַשֵּׁם כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ – How many are Your works, Hashem and all of them You made with wisdom (Tehilim 104:24).
And the way to gain this awareness is by looking! When you take the time to look at things in the world, so little by little you gain an awareness of Hashem in addition to your emunah peshutah. Emunah peshutah is very good. It’s excellent if you have the emunah peshutah you were taught in your childhood – very good, very good! But it’s not good enough!
I once gave a mashal here. Suppose Moshe Rabeinu announced to the Am Yisroel, “Let us all come now to Har Sinai to see Hashem come down on the mountain and give us the Torah.” And here is one Jew who says, “I have emunah peshutah. I don’t have to go. You go and tell me and I’ll believe you. When you come back, tell me what happened and I’ll be mekabel.” Oh no! You’re missing an opportunity. You have to come and see it for yourself! אִלּוּ קֵרְבָנוּ לִפְנֵי הַר סִינַי וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַתּוֹרָה דַּיֵּנוּ. Seeing is something altogether different! Just to be there and see with your own eyes gives you emunah.
So this frum Jew who has emunah peshutah, we say to him, “Nothing doing! You better go out into the world with open eyes and get a little more emunah than peshutah.” And the Chovos Halevavos teaches us in Sha’ar Habechinah that the best way to do this is by means of studying the briyah.
Now I know that most people will not do what I’m saying. It’s a subject that’s unfortunately ignored almost entirely by the frum world. You’ll go back to the yeshivah and they’ll say, “Well, it’s not so important. It’s old time mussar; it’s out of style.” Chovos Halevavos, Sha’ar Habechina, out of style?!
You have to know that it’s not only the Chovos Halevavos. It’s a Rambam (Yesodey Hatorah 2:2): וְהֵיאַךְ הִיא הַדֶּרֶךְ לְאַהֲבָתוֹ וְיִרְאָתוֹ – What is the way to arrive at awareness of Hashem and love of Hashem? Oh, that’s a big question, a very important question! So he says that when you look around at the world at the מַעֲשָׂיו וּבְרוּאָיו הַנִּפְלָאִים הַגְּדוֹלִים, at the great and wonderful objects that He made in this world, and you are misbonein – misbonein means that you see it and you think about the wonderful things that you’re seeing, then certainly there will come into you a great fear and love of Hashem. Those are the words of the Rambam; he says “certainly.” If you follow this path in life absolutely it will bring results – the Rambam guarantees it.
“Everything in this world,” says the Rambam, “has within it a חָכְמָה עֲמֻקָּה שֶׁאֵין לָהּ קֵץ – a deep wisdom with no end to its profundity.” Every natural object is full of the wisdom of Hashem with no end to it. And for what purpose? It’s trying to show you something; it wants to make known to you the greatness of Hashem. And therefore once you start looking you’ll think, “Who can design such a wonderful thing? Only the Infinite Designer, only Hakodosh Boruch Hu can do that.” And you’ll see Hashem wherever you open your eyes – that’s what the Rambam tells us.
Now, the Rambam is not a darshan. We can rely on his words – he knows what he’s talking about. Maybe you don’t believe in Chovos Halevavos – maybe he’s too frum for you – but the Rambam, surely him you can listen to. Everybody talks about the Rambam – in all yeshivos they learn Rambam. And so if the Rambam says that this is the way, so this is the way!
Sampling The World
Now, this subject is as vast as the universe; it’s never ending. But it’s our duty to take a few examples, at random, so that we should better understand what we’re talking about. But we must know that by giving the examples, we are actually belittling the subject. We must give some examples, but we must also know that the subject is so vast, that it’s like someone saying, “Give me a sample of the universe,” so you pick up a handful of ice from the street and say, “Here’s a sample of the universe.” It’s a sample, but it gives a very poor idea of what this universe really is. But suppose nobody ever saw anything in this world, he never opened his eyes, so at least let him see a piece of ice – something he should see!
And so we’ll give a few poor examples of our own; it’s a drop in the bucket but at least it’s something – and you’ll learn a little bit about how to use your eyes. And once you learn to keep your eyes open in this world – open to all of the chochmas Hashem – you’re already beginning your career of using your eyes to see Hashem in this world.
Learning from the Leaf
Let’s say you’re walking in the autumn and you’re breathing the brisk fresh air of autumn as your feet are wading through the leaves – you’re kicking the leaves on the sidewalk. Isn’t that fun? So you think, “Didn’t Rabbi Miller say that I shouldn’t waste the opportunity?” So you look around at the beautiful colors of the leaves and you’re thinking that every leaf that falls from the tree is a neis. Why did it fall? You think the leaf got tired and finally fell down? When a leaf falls from a tree, it’s a neis. Abscission cells develop at the end of the stem where it’s connected to the twig and these cells do a most purposeful performance of cutting off the leaf from the twig. When it falls, it’s a marvel! A marvel of complicated precision! Someone must have designed that, don’t you think? Someone with a capital S. And so, you’re thinking of Hashem already! Instead of just walking along and thinking about the weather, and the news, you’re doing something purposeful in this world, you’re thinking about the Borei Yisborach!
But don’t stop there! Once you begin seeing Hashem in this world, don’t let go! Hang onto it with ferocity! Pick up that leaf and admire it with your eyes. A leaf is an amazing complicated piece of machinery. I say “machinery” – one leaf is a whole block of factories! It breathes in carbon dioxide and moisture from the air. Sunshine too! It takes in the sunlight; and then it takes all these things and it kneads them together, and it makes all the materials that the tree needs out of that.
A Symbol Of Hashem
Think about that while you’re looking at the leaf. The leaf is making materials, and the leaf is sending the juicy materials through tiny little channels to the stem of the leaf and to the branch of the tree. It goes into the trunk and it becomes wood. It becomes roots too. It becomes leaves again and eventually it makes blossoms with nectar to attract the bees in order to pollinate the plants and then a fruit grows. That’s the work of the leaf.
Don’t stop now! Keep looking with your eyes. You see that the leaf is very thin; it’s spread out to cover as much space as possible. If you take all the leaves of one tree, it will cover an entire city block! Imagine a breathing space in contact with air of a whole city block. One tree! And each leaf is doing tremendous work taking in materials from the air.
That’s why some leaves have irregular circumferences. They’re not round and smooth. Why irregular? Why is it in and out? Because the edge of the leaf has holes in it where it breathes in and out and when you have irregular shapes of the leaf, it means there’s more opportunity for this function. Once you start studying one leaf you’ll see with your own eyes Hashem in the world.
And when you do that, so by means of your eyes all of these ideas go into your head and you become a new person. When you look at the ma’aseh yadav shel Hakodosh Boruch Hu, with the intention of seeing Hakodosh Boruch Hu, so the more and more you look, the more excited about it you become. And you should keep on looking for the next fifty years. Yes, fifty years looking at the leaves! Don’t get tired of it. You’ll be surprised. Each time you look, you’ll see more and more. And after a while, seeing a leaf becomes to you a symbol of Hashem’s presence in this world – it transforms your neshama and you become a yarei shamayim, someone who lives with a constant awareness of Hashem.
Part III. Seeing Hashem
Passing the Bakery
And so what we’re learning now is that this world is made to be seen. That’s why you walk on the Avenue. What do you need stores for? For shopping?! Who needs shopping?! Pay attention now to how to use the stores you pass on the street; let’s say you pass by a bakery. You look in the window and you see loaves of bread. Don’t just take a quick look and walk further. Stop and look. Say, “Isn’t that wonderful? Where did bread come from? הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ. Say it with your mouth. It’s a miracle – bread is a miracle! Nobody can make bread out of nothing. The chemists can’t make bread. DuPont can’t make bread. Ha’motzee – He is the only one who can bring forth bread from the earth!
So you look in the window and you think these thoughts. Now, of course if you’re an ordinary person so you’re too much of a wise guy to do that. We’re talking about people – men and women, boys and girls – who want to make something out of themselves. So you walk by a window and you stop to look.
Let’s say you see some chocolate cake in the window – even better. Chocolate cake! Where did all that pleasure come from? It’s a delicacy! Flavors and chocolate! It’s all miracles. Nobody can make it! Only Hakodosh Boruch Hu! Borei – He is the one who creates, minei mezonos, all these cakes and cookies. And those are your thoughts as you look in the window at the chocolate cake.
Years ago I used to wait for a bus at a certain corner and there was an Italian bakery on that corner. And I would stand there looking in the window while I was waiting for the bus. I saw there twenty kinds of bread – all kinds of bread, different shapes and sizes. And I studied them. It was amazing! Of course, I couldn’t eat their bread but it was remarkable to see what an appetizing thing bread is. What an amazing sight! I looked at the breads and I was misbonein. And I did it for a long time because I had to wait there on the corner every day for the bus. It was an education for me. If you pass by a window like that, you should utilize that.
Passing the Fruit Store
And now you keep on going, and down the block is a fruit store. Now, if you don’t bother using your eyes, you won’t see anything. It’s big bins of fruits, that’s all. But if you open your eyes you’ll see that אֱלֹקִים עָשָׂה שֶׁיִּרְאוּ מִלְּפָנָיו – Hashem made it for a purpose! Ahh, fruits! Red fruits, golden fruits, purple fruits, green fruits, yellow fruits. Take a look inside the window and you’ll see a cut watermelon with deep red flesh. Such beautiful colors – where did they come from? How did it happen?
Take your time, walk slowly by and look at an orange. See how beautiful it is! You might think it’s wax or plastic fruit that you could hang in your sukkah. Such beautiful colors just couldn’t be natural. The answer is, they’re not natural. They’re made by a manufacturer. The Manufacturer made it his business to put such a beautiful tint that made the fruit so delectable to the imagination. It’s more fun eating an orange, that is beautifully colored. Don’t you know that? Suppose oranges are the color of potatoes. It wouldn’t be much fun even though they tasted the same.
At this lecture, some years ago, a young man asked, “Can you prove there is a G-d?” I said, “Yes. I’ll do it immediately.” And I said, “Why is an orange so brightly colored on the outside of the skin, but on the underside of the skin, it has no color at all?” Now take this seriously. What you are hearing is a fundamental question. And there is no scientist in the world who can answer it. Why is it that the brightly colored fruits are colored only on the outside, but the underside of the skin has no color? Doesn’t that demonstrate that the purpose of the color is to be seen?
The Orange Tree
Did you ever see an orange tree? The beautiful glowing oranges stand out among the green leaves, like beacons, like traffic lights and they say, “Come and take me!” So it means that there is an intelligence, a Creator, who is offering you an orange and He says, “My fellow, take an orange and enjoy it.” And why is it that all those months that the orange was green, it refused to fall off the tree? It stubbornly held onto the tree. You could shake the tree, but the orange wouldn’t fall off. And as soon as it becomes ripe and announces its ripeness by its color, it obligingly falls off by itself.
So you stop for a minute and look at the orange peel. Not only is it a golden yellow on the outside; it’s glossy too. And on the other side, on the bottom of the peel, it’s not glossy or even colored. Why is it that? Is it an accident? Why shouldn’t the underside be colored beautifully and have a plastic? And the top part should be white and spongy. How does that happen? You have to take a look at that orange peel and ask those questions.
The answer is that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants you to see plan and purpose with your eyes. He wants you to pay attention to the orange peel. The peel has to protect the orange so the outside is covered with a little very thin layer of organic plastic that makes it slippery. So even little chewing insects can’t bite in. That’s why rarely does any insect bite into an orange. The orange is covered with a plastic, an organic plastic.
There are so many things that you could know if only you would look. So let us hold onto this and live with it until it sinks in! If you pass by a fruit stand you should stop – it pays to stop and look. Suppose you make it a principle that every time you pass a fruit stand, bli neder, you’ll stop for one half minute – every fruit store for thirty seconds – and you’ll admire the handiwork of Hashem. It’s an amazing exhibition! Learn to be excited over the show that Hashem is putting on for you because it’s put there just for that! אֱלֹקִים עָשָׂה – Hashem made fruit stands for that purpose! When you see a brightly colored orange in the fruit stand, it’s a lesson in emunah. One fruit is enough to teach you enough yiras Hashem to last you a lifetime!
And each one has seeds inside it. Last week I had a conversation with the fruit store man. I said to him, “How did the seeds get inside this fruit?” He looked at me like I fell off the moon. I said to him, “Did you ever find a fruit with a nickel inside?” So he tells me that it never happened. He’s been selling fruit for thirty years on Kings Highway and he never found a nickel in a fruit. So I asked him, “If you find a nickel inside the apple would you think that a person put it in there?” He said, “Yes, I would know somebody put it in there.” And you find a seed inside the apple – a seed is a thousand times more complicated than a nickel!
The seed has in it a million bits of information on how to create a tree – and it has the machinery to do it as well! “If you’ll plant me in the ground,” says the seed, “I’m going to create an orange tree. From what? From air and water and sunshine! The orange tree will have roots. It will have a trunk. It will have branches. It will have leaves. It will have lots of orange blossoms and it will produce oranges with seeds inside just like myself.”
And all these plans are in the little orange pit. So it’s a good idea to have an orange pit in your pocket sometimes. Carry it around with you. I do it. I carry seeds with me. I take them out sometimes in the middle of the street and look at them. Ahh! Look at the miracle. It’s more precious than any kind of diamond that you can find because no diamond is as valuable as the lesson that this world is made by a Great Designer.
Visiting the Art Gallery
Now, I’m telling you only some examples because you can’t stay here all night, and I don’t get paid for overtime anyhow. But there are plenty more good things you can see in the street. You walk in the street sometimes, don’t you? It doesn’t cost you any money; it doesn’t take much time either and the opportunities are as endless as the universe.
These pictures are all around us and it’s not the fault of Hakodosh Boruch Hu if people ignore them. If someone brought you into an art gallery – I’m not recommending any art galleries, especially nowadays – but suppose, let’s say, someone brought you into an art gallery, but you took a handkerchief out of your pocket and blindfolded yourself. And now you’re walking down the corridors, on both sides are expensive paintings, but you see nothing. It is nobody’s fault but your own. Pull off the blindfold and you’ll see everything.
This world is full of pictures! On all sides, we have these living pictures and each one of them is powerful enough to make a lasting impression on us, to make new men out of us. Trust me, it pays for all of you to consider such a career. You should take me seriously because once you get into this habit, you’ve embarked on a career for life, a tremendous career of using your eyes. And once you get started on this career, it’s a ladder to greatness.
The Blessing of Eyes
Seeing is one of the great delights of life. It’s a pleasure to be able to open your eyes and see what’s going on around you. Take a peek into the eye doctor’s office and you’ll see people waiting there with bandages covering their eyes. All kinds of eye ailments. This one needs this operation, and the other fellow a different operation.
But the greatest blessing of having eyes is the opportunity to utilize them to see the ma’asei yadav of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. You can see the His blue sky, His red apples, His colorful leaves and His orange seeds. You can see His snow and His rain as it comes down. Everything belongs to Him.
And it’s all for one purpose: כֻּלּוֹ אוֹמֵר כָּבוֹד – The entire creation is giving honor to Hashem. And the more we recognize Him, that’s our success in this world. When we come to the Next World we will be questioned, “What did you bring along with you? How much baggage did you bring from your stay in that world?” And therefore our purpose in this world is to fill our lives with as much baggage as possible – and the best baggage you can bring along with you to Olam Habo is a mind that thought constantly about Hashem.
And so we say to everyone, “Wake up and open your eyes! There’s a career of greatness waiting for you – a career of seeing Hashem.” And then, when you come to the Next World, you’ll be able to boast about the great business you made in Olam Hazeh. For a little bit of effort you acquired greatness! You’ll be surprised how many opportunities you can find during your lifetime to do this – the entire briyah testifies to Hashem. יוֹדוּךָ הַשֵּׁם כָּל מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתְךָ יֹאמֵרוּ – All of Your works speak of the glory of your kingdom. Everything is praising Hashem, only that in order to see it, we have to open our eyes.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
A Vort on the Parsha
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמַרְאֹת הַלַּיְלָה
And Hashem said to Yisroel in the visions of the night (46:2)
When we read here about the prophecy that Yaakov merited before he went down to Mitzrayim, we must note the paucity of Hashem’s prophecies to the Avos, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov; and to their sons no prophecy was ever granted. On the other hand, we find Yeshaya, Yirmiyahu,Yechezkel and others were favored with enough prophecies to fill large books.
The reason for this unexpected disparity lies in the different nature of these prophecies. The institution of nevuah was founded by Moshe Rabeinu “The father of the prophets”. Prophecy was intended to provide the nation with constant guidance and teaching. Hakodosh Boruch Hu therefore sent many messages, long messages, through these nevi’im to speak to the people (a navi is a “speaker” from the word niv, speech).
But the Avos had no nation yet to speak to – they were building the foundation of the Am Yisroel, but it would be many more years till the family would become a nation. And therefore, the institution of the nevi’im was not yet born. Whatever prophecy was granted to Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, was an exceptional event and was wholly owing to their exceptional personal excellence, without the benefit of the institution of prophecy that Moshe Rabeinu founded for the benefit of the nation.
וַיֶּאְסֹר יוֹסֵף מֶרְכַּבְתּוֹ
And Yosef harnessed his chariot (46:29)
Yosef personally harnessed the horses to the chariot, something that no king or prince would ever do. It means the most manual of labors, struggling with a horse in order to attach it to a wagon; it’s work that is best left to the king’s slaves. But the Torah is teaching us a great lesson here – that out of Yosef’s great love for father, and more importantly because of his desire to serve Hashem in the duty of honoring his father, he wanted to do as much of the mitzvah as he could with his own two hands. Yosef taught us the great principle that “It is more mitzvah to be done by him rather than by messenger” (Kiddushin 41a), because when you love mitzvos, you don’t leave the work for others to do.
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל פַּרְעֹה יְמֵי שְׁנֵי מְגוּרַי שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה
The days of the years of my sojourning (47:9)
What does Yaakov mean here when he describes his life as “days of sojourning”? When Pharaoh asked him his age – כַּמָּה יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֶּיךָ – we would have expected Yaakov to answer with the more appropriate answer: “The days of my life are 130 years,” or “I am 130 years old.” What did Yaakov mean when he said, “the days of my sojourning, my visiting”?
Yaakov Avinu wanted to achieve in this world the most perfection possible – this was his one chance in this world to achieve greatness and he wanted to make the best use of his days. And Yaakov knew that to achieve that, he would have to always keep before his eyes the most important fact about this world – that it’s only a hallway before the palace of the next world. הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דּוֹמֶה לִפְרוֹזְדוֹר לִפְנֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא – We’re only visiting here for eighty, ninety years, more or less, and then we move on to our permanent home.
And therefore, Yaakov Avinu, as much as he could, would always remind himself of this truth. And so, whenever he spoke about his life, he referred to it as the days of his geirus, the days of his traveling through, reminding himself and others of the truth of the temporariness of this world.