This week’s Torah reading relates that there was a famine in the land of Canaan and Jacob saw that there was food to be obtained in Egypt. He therefore instructed his sons to travel there and procure food. Before giving them these instructions, however, Jacob rebuked them, saying: “Why are you showing off?” The commentaries explain that Jacob’s sons had taken pains to demonstrate that they were satiated even though they had barely enough food for their immediate needs. They were not hungry. Nevertheless, seemingly, there was no reason for them to exhibit confidence, for they had only meager amounts of food stored away.

Why then did they radiate assurance? Because they were strong in their faith that G‑d would not forsake their father or themselves. They trusted that G‑d would continue to provide for them. They therefore behaved as if they possessed ample stores of food, for their faith in G‑d let them act as if the food they would need in the future was already in hand.

Our Rebbeim would say, Tracht gut, vet zein gut (“Think positively, and the outcome will be good”). Thinking positively is itself a cogent force that leads to a favorable outcome, causing G‑d to bless a person with revealed and manifest good.

When a person truly trusts in G‑d alone from the depths of his soul, to the extent that he has no worry worries at all, his arousal of this trust itself causes G‑d to care for him. It is not dependent on whether he is worthy or not. His investment of trust elevates the nature of his relationship with G‑d. When a child looks up at his parent with complete trust and assurance, will he not provide for him? Is there a way he would punish him? In the same way, our trust and reliance on G‑d motivates Him to respond to us with kindness and mercy. When He sees us expectantly awaiting His mercy and kindness, He radiates forth such kindness. For this reason, Jacob’s sons showed confidence.

Why then did Jacob rebuke his sons? The commentaries explain: Their trust was desirable, but the neighboring nations — the descendants of Yishmael and Esau — might not have understood their intent. Therefore Jacob desired that their trust be internalized rather than exhibited to others.

Looking to the Horizon

This week’s Torah reading contains a narrative that requires explanation. The Torah relates that when Joseph took Jacob to Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him. “How old are you?”

Jacob answered: “The years of my travails are 130. The days of the years of my life have been few and hard and they have not reached those of my ancestors in their journeys.”

Why was it necessary for Jacob to say that “the years of my life have been few”? Pharaoh only asked him his age. Seemingly, he should have confined his answer to that.

Why did Jacob consider his life short? Because he was not able to fill it with the spiritual content that he desired. Our Sages relate, “Jacob desired to live in tranquility.” In a complete sense, this refers to the ultimate tranquility that will characterize the Era of the Redemption. From the time Joseph was born, Jacob was ready for the Redemption. Since this potential was not realized during his life, he considered his life as lacking.

Jacob felt it necessary to communicate this message. He wanted his descendants to know that even when they were living in “the finest place in the land of Egypt” and were being given “the fat of the land,” since the Redemption had not materialized, they should consider their lives as lacking. Therefore he made this statement to Pharaoh, knowing that it would be recorded for posterity.