Kenneth Cohen

Guests in Galut

There is so much to be learned from the stories in the Torah. The end of the Book of Bereishit, speaks of the Jewish people getting acclimated to life in Egypt.

The Keli Yakar points out that the Jews in Egypt made the same mistake that Jews would make throughout the generations. They neglected to recognize that time spent outside of Israel, means living in Galut. Their major yearning should constantly be to return to our homeland, and hope that the time spent in Galut, will be brief. We are to long for our ultimate redemption.

Instead, time and time again, the Jewish people looked for שלווה, contentment, and a good life wherever they were. In Egypt, initially, they became comfortable and forgot that this was not meant to be a place of permanence.

The period of time, where Jews lived in any country, always proved to be temporary. Their stay always ended either in assimilation, expulsion, or annihilation. We were not to forget that we were guests in these lands, and our hope was that our hosts would treat us nicely.

We must learn from the first mistake made by the Jews in Egypt. They wanted to be accepted and considered as equal citizens. As long as Yakov was alive, life was very peaceful for the Jews.

As would happen so many times in the future, things started out well, but it did not always last. Perhaps the mistake of “making Berlin, Jerusalem,” was the cause for later difficulties.

The stories of the Torah, are placed there for a reason. The Ramban used the phrase, מעשה אבות סימן לבנים, “that which occurred to the Patriarchs, is a sign for the children,” to drive home this point. The ultimate home for all of the Jewish people is Israel. It is only in Israel where we are no longer guests, but it us, who are the hosts.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at