The first verse of this week's Torah portion tells us that Jacob lived his last seventeen years in Egypt. The Biblical commentator Baal Haturim notes that the number seventeen has the numerical value equivalent to the Hebrew word "tov" (good). He, therefore, infers that Jacob's finest years were those spent in Egypt, reunited with Joseph and surrounded by his entire family.

These seventeen years were not lived in the Holy Land. They were spent in Egypt, a land renowned for its decadent and immoral population. Yet Jacob thoroughly enjoyed his stay there, because of the Yeshiva which had been established in the land. According to the Talmud, before Jacob agreed to travel to Egypt he sent his son Judah ahead to establish a Yeshiva in Goshen, the Egyptian territory where Jacob and his children settled.

Fully aware that his descendents would face difficult and harrowing times in Egypt, Jacob realized that only the Yeshivas could give them a strong Jewish identity, enable them to withstand all the difficulties and persecutions, and insulate them against the threat of assimilation.

Of all the twelve brothers, every one a righteous and worthy Torah scholar in his own right, Jacob chose Judah to establish the Yeshiva. Why him? Indeed, the Midrash tells us that Joseph was Jacob's primary student, and in the years preceding his sale to Egypt Jacob imparted to him all he had learned throughout his many years of study. Wouldn't then Joseph have been the appropriate choice to head the Egyptian School of Advanced Torah Study?

Jacob thoroughly enjoyed his stay in Egypt because of the Yeshiva which had been established in the landAn understanding of the difference between Joseph and Judah will answer this question. Both of them were royal personalities; Joseph in Egypt,1 and Judah was the king of the brothers, and the progenitor of the Royal House of David. According to Chassidic teachings, Joseph and Judah possessed different strengths; each one "king" in his unique domain. The name Yehudah (Judah) is rooted in the Hebrew word "hoda'ah," which means acknowledgement and submission. Judah represents action; an acknowledgment that we are merely servants of the Creator who must implement the Divine will whether or not we comprehend its meaning. The name Yosef (Joseph) means to increase. Joseph represents the powers of intellect and emotion, qualities which develop and mature with age and experience, as opposed to action which qualitatively never changes. The three year old girl lights Shabbat candles just as her mother does, the difference between the two lies in the understanding and appreciation of the mitzvah.

Both Judah and Joseph are necessary components of a Jew's life. We are commanded to understand Torah and love G‑d, but these qualities do not suffice; ultimately a Jew must serve G‑d simply because this is what He commanded us to do. Undoubtedly, Judah also studied Torah and labored on refining his personality, and Joseph certainly unconditionally submitted to G‑d's will; the difference between the two tribes was emphasis. Judah emphasized the primacy of action whereas Joseph stressed the importance of developing our G‑d-given talents.

Jacob chose Judah to establish the Egyptian Yeshiva, because in times of exile, turmoil, and hardship, it is Judah's legacy which ensures our continued allegiance to G‑d and His holy Torah. The heart and mind can be manipulated and swayed by decades and centuries of suffering, but the Jew's inherent submission to G‑d, which stems from the very essence of the Jewish Soul, can withstand any challenge which the most grueling exile may present. Yes, the Yeshivas must teach our youth how to study Torah, but that is not their most important goal. The key to Jewish survival is educators who follow the spirit of Judah, imbuing our children with a sense of duty – their duties towards G‑d, the world, and their fellow Jews.