Ohr Hachayim Genesis: Vayigash
Sifting for Diamonds
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
We live in a confusing and confused world. We worship people for their looks, or physical prowess, or talent, or money, or power. We strive to emulate them, wearing what they wear, doing what they do, with minimal regard to the moral component of the equation. One might refer to this ongoing period of ethical darkness as “Exile”.
We have been in a long Exile, but it is purposeful. The first account of extended Exile for the Children of Israel in the Bible is the account of Jacob and his sons leaving the land of Canaan to relocate in the Egyptian Empire. Egypt was the dominant culture of the time and considered by rabbinic commentators to be the moral cesspool of the world, mired in crass materialism and a worship of death that exceeded their value of life. Why would God choose this of all places to send the nascent nation of Israel?
The Ohr Hachayim (Genesis 46:3) claims that Jacob’s Exile and every Exile since then serve a vital, positive purpose in the history of the world and the mission of mankind. We are purposely placed in a location that may not be ideal, that does not have the values or ideals that we have or that we believe to be correct. Often we are affected or corrupted by the darkness that envelopes us. Our purpose is to find, create and expand the light within that darkness.
The Ohr Hachayim refers to the purpose of Exile as “drawing holiness out of impurity.” We cannot and are not meant to live in ivory towers. We are surrounded and embedded within a deep, pervasive foulness that clouds the mind and spirit from an early age. But it is neither hopeless nor impenetrable. As individuals and as a community our mission is to find the diamonds around us and within us and lift them from the drudge we may be in. We must then care for those diamonds, polish them and let their light shine forth.
The diamonds are our souls and that of those around us. It is the good deed, the kind word, the moral choice, the ethical decision. It is rising above material greed and instant gratification. It is choosing wisdom and education over popular culture and mindless entertainment. It is going against the current of the purveyors of filth and cruelty. It is the courage and the strength to believe in holiness in a world that laughs at the concept. That is the purpose of Exile.
May we shine in our respective Exiles and merit enjoying the subsequent Redemption.
Please pray for God’s intervention for Chanoch Refael ben Dvora.