Was Yaakov Afraid to Go Down to Egypt?

When Yaakov heard that Yosef was still alive he said (Breisheet 45:28) “It is too much! My son Yosef still lives. I will go and see him before I die”. The next pasuk explains how Yaakov immediately traveled to Be’er Sheva and offered sacrifices to “the God of his father, Yitzchak.” God then appeared to Yaakov in a night vision where He said “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt for there I will make you into a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt and I will bring you up again.”

Abravanel asks why God is telling Yaakov not to be afraid. We don’t see in the text that Yaakov was afraid. Rather, we see that Yaakov prepares to go down to Egypt.

Radak explains that Yaakov offered sacrifices in Be’er Sheva, right before leaving the Land of Israel to the “God of His father Yitzchak” because he wanted to inquire if God wanted him to go down to Egypt or if he wanted him to remain in the Land of Israel the way that Yitzchak was asked to remain.

Chizkuni points out that Yaakov was afraid that by going down to Egypt he would be fulfilling the prophecy that God gave Avraham. God said: Don’t be afraid, although the days of bondage and affliction are at hand, so is the blessing that I will make you a great nation.

Rashi says that that Yaakov was distressed because he didn’t want to leave the Land of Israel.

Nechama Leibowitz comments that Yaakov was worried that his descendents would become too comfortable in Egypt and would not want to leave and return to the Land of C’naan (Israel) even though it was the land that had been promised to their forefathers.

Although Yaakov wanted to see Yosef and was anxious to go to Egypt, he was worried about the nation as a whole and if they would indeed return to the land of Israel after the exile.

As we have seen throughout Jewish history, over and over again the Jewish people have been exiled, yet each time they have returned to the Land of Israel. We are fortunate to have the State of Israel today, a place where many Jews continue to return, fulfilling God’s blessing which was originally given to Avraham “I will make you a great nation”.