Shlomo Ezagui

What gain is there in hardship and difficulty?

Micha Sager

Jacob, the third of the patriarchs, is very concerned about going to Egypt to find food during a famine in Canaan. God soothes and calms him down, saying, “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt… I will go down with you, and I will go up with you, go up.”

Throughout the ages, God assured Abraham, and the prophets assured the Israelites that they would be protected and that they would be redeemed from their exiles. We say at the Passover meal, “Blessed is He, who guards His promise (to guard and protect), and it is this (promise) that has stood up (for us) to guard our forefathers and ourselves….”

What did God say that strengthened Jacob for the journey? Where do we see any power, strength, and motivation in God’s promise for us all?

When a regular person makes a promise, he must then carry out the promise. There are two stages of a promise: the promise itself and its manifestation, which isn’t always guaranteed, as sincere as one may be when the promise is made.

When God created the world, the Bible tells us he did so with ten statements. “Let there be light, and there was light […] Let the ground give forth grass.” And so, it was. God’s statements do not need a second stage to be carried out. When God verbalizes a command, that energy becomes the substance of the thing created. There is nothing to stand in the way of its formation. When God articulates His thoughts, God is already there where he intends to be, with no lapse of time or hindrance.

And here is what God told Jacob: I will go down with you, I am already there with you, waiting for you in your descent. You have me the entire way down, and you have me there even before you come down.

God is the essence of good, and all that God does is for good; therefore, going down is always with God, and we are not alone. It is part of God’s plan and is, therefore, part of some positive and good purpose. We have His help and assistance, even in the falling, so we do not get crushed.

It goes further: in the same way that I am already there in the descent, I am already there in the ascent.

If the only thing after a fall is that we return to where we were, why go through the experience? What gain is there in all the hardship and difficulty? God gives Jacob a twofold directive: “And I will go up with you, go up.” When things turn out that way, your descent is so that you should be doubly elevated…higher than where you were before falling. The experience of falling, if appropriately viewed, always has planted within it the seeds of something greater than we would be or reach without the fall and the descent.

This is our true source of solace and support: knowing God has promised to come down with us and take us higher than before. This thought, this reality, not only comforts us in the fall but gives us the strength to pull ourselves out of where we are, to reach even further than where we were.

Chapter 33

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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