Our Parshah describes the beginning of a new stage in the history of the Jewish people. Jacob and all his children and grandchildren, numbering altogether seventy people, had been living in the land which was going to be the Land of Israel. Due to the harsh famine, and in response to the invitation of the long-lost Joseph, the entire family was now moving to Egypt.

Jacob had good reason to be worried about what might happen there. Would his unique family be able to maintain its identity? Or would it simply disappear, swamped by the sophisticated culture of a major power? Further, how would the Egyptians relate to the Hebrews, worshippers of a G‑d they could not see? As we ourselves know, the Egyptian ruler later enslaved the Jews and did his best to destroy them.

During the journey to Egypt, G‑d appeared to Jacob in a vision. “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt,” said G‑d; “I will go down with you.” Together with this came a promise that eventually the Jewish people would return to the Holy Land.

This promise from G‑d gave the family of Jacob a sense of direction. They did not forget who they were and where they were going. After two hundred years of slavery, when G‑d sent a great leader to them to set them free, they recognized him as a man of G‑d and responded to his leadership. Eventually the promise was fulfilled: they left Egypt, returned to the Holy Land, took possession of it and built the Temple.

We, too, thousands of years later, find ourselves in a situation in which it is very easy to lose one’s way. But we too have been given a promise by G‑d: by following the path of the Torah, we will make a dwelling for G‑d in our hearts, our homes and our lives. This will affect not only the entire Jewish people, but all humanity. The promise of Jewish teaching is that, in the most positive way imaginable, we will transform the world.

This is the divine promise. We can rely on it. The rest is up to us!