Sometimes, I feel that if only G‑d would speak to me, as he did to Jacob, it would be so much easier to deal with the pain and suffering of living with ALS. But then I remind myself that everything in Torah is G‑d talking to me. It’s not easy to see it that way, but it’s true. It takes effort and thought, but if you can put this in focus, you will find comfort in knowing that G‑d is talking to you and He is always with you; you are Jacob.

In Vayigash, we read of Jacob’s descent into the exile of Egypt. As he is about to exit the Holy Land, G‑d tells Jacob: “Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt, because I will make you into a great nation there. I am going down to Egypt with you . . . ”

Rashi explains that Jacob was “anguished over leaving the Holy Land.” How could I lead my family away from the best place for them to become a nation, the place most conducive to be a Jew and to be close to G‑d? How will we become G‑d’s nation in a dark and distant exile?

G‑d tells him: “Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt because I will make you into a great nation there. I am going down to Egypt with you . . . ”

While G‑d allays his fears about going down to Egypt, He does not even mention Jacob’s anguish over leaving Israel. Why not?

Since this is G‑d’s message to Jacob as he goes down to the first Jewish exile, there must be lessons here for every Jew on how to deal with the exile. What are those lessons?

In exile, one may feel that it is a lost cause trying to make a difference. G‑d tells us that the opposite is the case. The fact that He puts us in a predicament means that this situation is most conducive to accomplish our mission, and it is here that we will be most effective and most successful.

The key is not to be afraid of the situation. Don’t be afraid of the exile; embrace it and find how to use your predicament to bring even greater change.

This is what G‑d tells Jacob: “Don’t be afraid of going down to Egypt because I will make you into a great nation there.” Why shouldn’t you be afraid? Why will you succeed? Because I am going down with you.

Now, if we succeed, there is the possibility to become comfortable and lose focus of our purpose. This is why G‑d doesn’t mention Jacob’s anguish, as it is his anguish that will keep him focused on his essential purpose and bond with G‑d. This anguish is the force behind our success.

So we need both: first, not to be afraid, and second, the anguish. We need to realize that although we can succeed greatly in exile, it is not our place. We must cry out to G‑d, asking that He send Moshiach and bring the exile to an end. May it happen soon!

I want to thank my wife, Dina, for her help writing this article.