This week’s Torah reading begins: “And Jacob lived in the Land of Egypt.” The Baal HaTurim, one of the foremost Torah commentaries, explains that Jacob spent his best years in the land of Egypt.”

To explain: Throughout his life, Jacob was beset by problems and difficulties. In Egypt, he was able to live in wealth and prosperity and spend his final years sharing his wisdom with his sons. These were obviously the best years of his life.

One might, however, ask: Why were the best years of Jacob’s life spent in Egypt? Egypt is a depraved land, a place of spiritual darkness. Why was it that Jacob found fulfillment there rather than in Eretz Yisrael , our holy land? Couldn’t G‑d have structured it otherwise?

The commentaries explain that this reflects a motif suggested by the Zohar. On the verse: “I saw an advantage to light over darkness,” the Zohar explains that it is through darkness that it is possible to attain the higher quality of light.

The existence of every entity in the world is maintained by G‑dly life-energy. Even those objects which appear to be spiritually empty possess G‑dly sparks. Indeed, from a certain perspective, the G‑dly energy contained within them is greater than that manifest in situations where holiness is openly revealed.

How can the G‑dliness within these entities be tapped? By emulating Jacob’s example. Jacob saw no difference between life in Egypt and life in Eretz Yisrael. Certainly, the externals were not the same. Here he lived amid affluence and security, and there he struggled with perverse foes. In one place, the land was holy, and in the other, it was corrupt. But internally, he saw no change. In both places, his life was characterized by an unchanging and uninterrupted commitment to the Torah. Even in Egypt, this was the focus of his existence. Despite the decadence of Egyptian society, he and his descendants remained focused on the spiritual.

Through these efforts, he was able to tap the latent spiritual potential that is present within Egypt, enabling the higher quality of light to the surface. And by doing so, he generated the potential for the exodus from Egypt, when his descendants would proceed from exile to redemption.