He Goes Down with Us

by Yossi Katz

We all have good days and bad days, times of growth and times when we’re down (but hopefully not completely out!). Especially at this time of year when there is little sunlight and lots of cold weather, we often feel spiritually dead. What we may not realize is that our ups and downs are a byproduct of the galus and geula that Yaakov and his children faced when they fell into servitude in Mitzrayim, only to later emerge as a great nation.

The Zohar goes so far as to say that the entire process of aliya (spiritual ups) and yerida (spiritual downs) is hinted to in thirty letters: אָנֹכִי אֵרֵד עִמְּךָ מִצְרַיְמָה וְאָנֹכִי אַעַלְךָ גַם עָלֹה (I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back) (Bereishis 46:4). What is so special about these words? For one, they imply that Hashem Himself descends down with us into galus and He is together with us in our every personal challenge. They also imply that He takes responsibility for bringing us back as well. But let’s delve a little deeper into these words and their implications.

If we remove the spaces between the words and break everything up into three groups of ten words, we get the following:

The three groups represent the three types of spiritual experiences we encounter. The first group describes “going down” and is synonymous with times that we face challenges and begin to fall.

The second group includes the word mitzrayimah (to Egypt) and describes a person who has now fallen and finds himself in a state of spiritual deprivation. At the very moment of his most intense pain and confusion, future aliya has already began. For this reason, the word mitzrayimah is next to the second Anochi (I Myself), which describes Hashem Himself delivering us from galus.

Rebbe Nachman tells us that every yerida is for the ultimate purpose of aliya. Our struggles are custom-made situations orchestrated by Hashem for the purpose of our personal growth and development. Like a slingshot, life pulls us back in order to propel us forward. The reason we don’t see Hashem is because the yetzer hara works overtime to trap us in the bitterness of our circumstances. He covers over every sign of hope we might notice and make it seem as if all is lost. But is this true? How many times has a situation looked like a dead end, only to lead to an unimaginable result? For this reason, the letter yud of the second Anochi is separated from the rest of the word, lest we see that Hashem is with us and find the encouragement to get through our current issue.

Fortunately, though, the missing yud appears in the third group, which describes our ultimate triumph. YuD is like YaD (hand) – this is a reference to the hand of Yaakov which grabbed hold of the heel of Esav. Rashi explains that Esav will appear to be winning but at the last moment, Yaakov will overcome him (ibid. 25:26). When people are wrestling, a moment before one gives up, he musters all his remaining strength to strike back. In these days before Mashiach and the end of evil, we face almost daily situations in which we are powerless to fight back against such an adversary. If we can just hold on for these final moments, Hashem will deliver us and our hardships will be transformed to the greatest possible aliya.
But we can take this one step further. The thirty letters can be broken down into ten vertical columns of three letters each. The first column spells out Hashem’s Name of Aleph-Mem-Yud. This teaches that even at the very beginning of our fall (the Aleph of the first Anochi), and even when we find ourselves in galus (the Mem of Mitzrayimah), the Yud which appears together with the words “will also bring you back” is already connected to our process. Have hope, as Hashem is always with us! He has already planned our salvation and ultimate ascendency.

Likutey Halachos, Shiluach HaKen 5

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