Vayachi - The Challenge of this World

The parshah opens with:
And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years, and Jacob's days, the years of his life, were a hundred and forty seven years.
Breisheit 47:28
Asks the Netivot Shalom, why does the verse have to specify that Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years, and then state his age? The number of years he spent in Egypt could be deduced based on the age we learned earlier from when he arrived in Egypt.

Descending into Egypt
To consider this question, the Netivot Shalom raises another issue. Why did Yaacov have to go down to Egypt at all? We see that different patriarchs and matriarchs go down to Egypt. Avraham and Sarah go to Egypt. Yoseph spent most of his life in Egypt. Then Yaacov came down to Egypt.

This plays a key role in paving the way for the People of Israel to eventually to come down to Egypt. Their holy presence in Egypt is meant to transmit holy sparks and infuse the atmosphere of Egypt with a holiness that was not previously present. This is meant to create the foundations for an environment to enable the People of Israel to survive their time in Egypt.

The Power of 17
Yet this doesn't address the main question. Why does the Torah have to stipulate that Yaacov was in Egypt for 17 years?  The Netivot Shalom continues and says that this figure is critical. The gematria of 17 is:
ט ו ב
2 + 6 + 9 = 17

What is this? This is good (טוב). Good is the act of conquering (or correcting) a certain character trait. Good is the opposite of Bad (רע), and of the course the component that is the evil force confronting us is the Yetzer HaRah (יצר הרע).

Why Egypt?
Yet, the Netivot Shalom explains, in order to understand this perspective, we need to understand why the People of Israel went down to Egypt.

In the covenant between Avraham and G-d, there is a warning that Avraham's descendents will suffer. However the exact place is not specified.
And He said to Abram, "You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years.
Breisheit 15:13
The land is not specified. So now that we see in fact that the land alluded to will be Egypt. Then why Egypt? What is unique about Egypt to qualify it as this land?

Egypt is the epitome of impurity. It is a place filled with abominations. This is the worst place that the Jewish people could be sent. Since this is the case, the patriarchs and matriarchs needed to lessen the intensity of this impure environment, and infuse it with some level of holiness.

The Morale of the Descent to Egypt
Yaacov going down to Egypt can be seen as a metaphor for the life experience. Yaacov sitting in the promised land, is that place on high where souls are hewn. Then the soul comes down, into this world. Our world is imperfect, and filled with destructive, elements. So like the patriarchs and matriarchs raising up the sparks in Egypt and adding some holiness. We need to work on our souls in the same way in this world

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