The verse states:1 “These are the descendants of Ya’akov — Yosef.” This indicates that Yosef was the continuation of Ya’akov,2 in keeping with the saying of our Sages:3 “All that transpired with this one [Ya’akov] transpired with this one [Yosef].”

Yosef differed from his brothers in that only he underwent the trials and tribulations of exile. In this sense, he was similar to his father Ya’akov, who was the only Patriarch subjected to exile — during his 20 years in the house of Lavan.

Although these 20 years were exceedingly difficult, Ya’akov remained steadfast in his faith. For this is the particular accomplishment of Ya’akov — who represents the Attribute of Truth4 — that in all situations and circumstances, he did not change his ways, remaining steadfast in his faith and observance, even while in Lavan’s home.

Still and all, a difference did exist between Ya’akov and Yosef with regard to the nature of their exiles, and that’s why it is the particular strength of Yosef that enables the Jewish people to endure the difficulties of exile.

Even while Ya’akov was in exile with Lavan, he was not immersed in worldly affairs. His servitude consisted of having to care for Lavan’s flocks — a type of labor that enables one to remain far removed from worldly concerns and concentrate on matters of the spirit. This was because Ya’akov was at a level of ultimate sanctity and holiness, completely immune to the darkness of exile.

Herein lay the difference between Ya’akov — and the Patriarchs in general — and the 12 tribes. The tribes, of necessity, had to remove themselves from worldly matters so that the world would not impinge upon their spiritual service — had they not done so, the mundane world would have hindered their service.

The Patriarchs, however, were intrinsically removed from worldly matters, living as they did in total holiness and sanctity. Their shepherding was merely a natural outgrowth of their innate sense of removal from the mundane.

So too with Ya’akov. Even as he found himself in Lavan’s house, he remained separate and thus above any true sense of exile. Consequently, like his forbears, he was a shepherd.

The quality that allowed Ya’akov, even while he was in exile, to remain removed from and loftier than that state, also finds expression in the fact that, when he is forced to do battle with Esav’s angel5 — when he must vanquish his opposition — he overwhelms him totally, so that the angel declares: “Your name will no longer be Ya’akov, but Yisrael [a term of mastery], for you have striven with men and with angels and have been successful.”6

Herein lies the special quality of Yosef, who indeed descended into exile, and was truly under the dominion first of Potiphar and then of Pharaoh. But even under such circumstances, he remained completely united with G‑d.

Thus, the strength that all Jews have to withstand exile — for, to all Jews, exile means being under foreign dominion — comes primarily from Yosef, who, as we read in the portion of Vayigash , sustained his brothers — i.e. he granted them his qualities — during the “time of hunger.”

This quality was subsequently transmitted to every Jew in all generations.

Because it is Yosef’s resilience that sustains us during even the darkest times, all Jews are called Yosef.7 And similar to our namesake, the darkness and gloom of exile does not prevent us from being totally united with G‑d, and we remain completely steady in our Judaism and observance of Torah and mitzvos.

Ultimately, this exalted behavior not only nullifies exile, but transforms it into a state of redemption — an eternal redemption that can never be subject to further exile, with the speedy coming of our righteous Moshiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXV, pp. 254-257