In parshat Vayigash, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and said, "G‑d sent me ahead of you to ensure that you survive in the land, and sustain you in a great deliverance. So now, it was not you who sent me here, but G‑d, He made me ... ruler over all Egypt."1 And he continues to tell them to tell their father, Jacob, "This is what your son Joseph said: 'G‑d has made me master of all Egypt, come down to me; do not tarry.' "2

It is understood from Joseph's words to Jacob that it wasn't just a good idea to come down to Egypt because Joseph was in command. Neither was he just showing them G‑d's hand in the brothers’ sale of Joseph, but he was saying that it was time for the Egyptian exile to begin, therefore, "come down to me; do not tarry." And what was the proof? The proof was that Joseph was the "ruler of all Egypt."

We know that Abraham was told by G‑d that his children would be in a land that is not their own for 400 years, and Joseph was certain that this was the sign that it is the time for it to begin. Why was he so certain that ruling over Egypt was the sign? And why would he be eager for the Egyptian exile to begin?

At the Covenant Between the Parts, G‑d told Abraham that his children will be in a land that is not their own, "and they will enslave them, and make them suffer" for 400 years, "and after that they will go out with great wealth."3 The promise that "they will go out with great wealth" isn't just a reward for their enslavement and suffering, but it is the purpose of their whole exile.

What is the proof that the whole purpose of the Egyptian exile is that "they will go out with great wealth"?

One of the reasons4 for the plague of darkness that descended upon the Egyptians was so that the Jewish people would be able to enter Egyptian properties and search out their valuables, in order to know what they have, since G‑d commanded, "And they should borrow, a man from his friend, and a woman from her friend, silver vessels and gold vessels."5 Rashi brings the teaching of the Talmud6 that this was to facilitate the promise that "and after they will go out with great wealth," so that the righteous one [Abraham] shouldn't say," that G‑d kept the part of His promise that "they will enslave them, and make them suffer," but He didn't keep the continuation that "And after that they will go out with great wealth."

This doesn't seem to make sense. No one wants to stay in bondage, in exile, even for one extra moment. As the Talmud7 tells us, when G‑d said, "And they should borrow, a man from his friend, and a woman from her friend..." The Jewish people said, "if only we could leave ourselves [empty-handed]." And the Talmud explains that it is like a person who is in jail, and he is told that tomorrow he will be set free, and he will be given riches. And he responds, "let me free now and I will forgo the riches." The Jewish people would have rather left empty-handed than stay one more moment in Egyptian servitude. So why would G‑d keep them suffering in bondage longer than necessary just for a payout?

And even Abraham would certainly have forgon G‑d's promise just to let his children out of their suffering.

We must conclude that going out "with great wealth" in this case was so important that it was worth staying in oppressive bondage for it, and even Abraham would agree to it, because it was the reason that they were there to begin with.

And this is what Joseph was saying to his brothers: Go tell our father, "G‑d has made me master of all Egypt," and because of that, the wealth of all of Egypt is under my jurisdiction, therefore, "come down to me, do not tarry." Because G‑d's purpose in sending us to a land that is not our own has come to pass. The foundation is laid for us to "go out with great wealth." This was especially so at that time. Because of the great famine, the wealth of the whole world has made its way into Egypt, as we read, "And Joseph collected all of the silver [money]."8 And the Talmud9 explains that it means "All of the silver [money] in the world."

What is so important about this wealth that it is the purpose of the Egyptian exile?

The Collection of Holy Sparks

Kabbalah and Chassidus tell us of a world that existed before this one, called Tohu. The light of that world was too great, and it shattered. The pieces of that world were incorporated into our world, Tikkun, in the form of 288 spiritual sparks that are hidden in the physical. Our job is to extract those great sparks and raise them up to G‑d. We do this by using the physical for Torah and mitzvahs, to serve G‑d. When we finish collecting all these sparks, when all the lights of Tohu will be incorporated into the vessels of Tikkun, Moshiach will be here.

Every one of us has a unique mission in this world. We are meant to work on and extract the sparks that are hidden within our corner of this physical world, and when we are done with the extraction, we come away with it in the form of physical possessions. We are all directed by G‑d to the exact time and place, and we are given the physical objects that we need to work on in order to complete the mission.

It is obvious that these sparks are very great, and it takes many of us and much effort to extract one of these sparks.

In Egypt there were 20210 of these sparks that the Jewish people took out with them. That is why they were there to begin with. This was the "great wealth" that G‑d promised Abraham, and that was worth staying in oppressive bondage longer for. The physical manifestation of these sparks were in the form of gold, silver, etc.

The remaining 86 sparks are spread over the rest of the world, and we are spread across the globe to do the work of extracting the rest of the sparks. The lion’s share of sparks were elevated by our ancestors in Egypt.

That is why Abraham agreed to the bondage, and that is why Joseph was eager for the Egyptian exile to begin. The "great wealth" would put us far ahead on the road to completing the Jewish mission, to make this world into a home for G‑d, Tohu in Tikkun.

This is also the reason that the money and the possessions of the Jewish people are very precious to G‑d,11 because in them are found these holy sparks that we are meant to uplift.

It goes even deeper. Every one of our souls is connected to a specific spark or cluster of sparks, and it is the essence of the neshamah that is connected to the spark. Even deeper, the reason that the soul was created was to extract its specific spark, and as long as the spark is not extracted, it remains in exile and the soul remains in exile with it. So in order to free our souls, we must free our specific sparks. It was to the benefit of the Jewish people that they stayed longer, even in servitude, because it ensured that not only did their bodies go free, but also their souls.

Where do we find these sparks?

G‑d said that we should borrow vessels of gold and silver, "a woman from her neighbor, and from the one who lives in her home."12

"A woman" refers to the soul. And she should borrow "vessels," which are holy sparks, "from her neighbor," like a neighbor who she comes in contact with from time to time, meaning the people and the things we interact with once in a while, "and from the one who lives in her home," meaning the people and the things we interact with every day.

All these interactions are purposeful, not by chance. Rather, G‑d put them with you because they are your charge, they are connected to your soul. And you are meant to have a positive impact on them, an impact of Torah and G‑d's ways. This way you uncover the G‑dly spark hidden within, and you uncover the wealth that is there.

A person may think to himself: "What do I need this for? I don't want anything to do with the exile. I will ensconce myself in a place of Torah and prayer, and I won't have anything to do with the world and this exile."

This way of thinking is a big mistake for two reasons. First, although it sounds noble, it is all superficial. He might feel free of the exile, but he is really prolonging it, because his part is not being accomplished, and the essence of his soul that is connected to his part, his mission, is stuck in the exile.

Second, what is all the holiness worth if he is not doing what G‑d wants and he is not accomplishing what he was created to do?

The culmination of the Exodus from Egypt happened at the splitting of the sea. Our sages say,13 "Greater were the spoils of the sea than the spoils of Egypt." The Egyptians would adorn themselves, their horses and their war chariots with gold, silver, etc. And when they drowned in the sea, G‑d made a miracle, that all the valuables washed ashore. All the Jewish people had to do was pick it up. According to the Midrash, there were at least 18 million14 Egyptians who went out to chase the Jewish people. It was when they crossed the sea that the spoils of Egypt that were officially "borrowed" became theirs, because the Egyptians drowned.15

May we merit the coming of Moshiach, when we will see the fruits of our labor, our struggles and our suffering in this exile. And we will once again go out with great wealth, greater than when we left Egypt, spiritual and physical, souls and bodies. May it happen soon.16