God’s Loving Presence
Yael Eckstein | December 23, 2020
“I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” — Genesis 46:4
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayigash, which means “and he approached,” from Genesis 44:18–47:27.
When people go through tough times, they often feel abandoned by God. They wonder, “If God is with me, how could things possibly be so bad?” However, according to Jewish tradition, the opposite is true. It is specifically in our most trying moments that God’s loving presence is most evident. He is by our side, holding our hand, and showering us with His love.
Losing my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, unexpectedly when he was just 67 was the hardest moment of my life. And yet, even then I felt God with me. His loving presence is what got me through that difficult time.
In this week’s Torah reading, we learn that seventy members of Jacob’s family went from Canaan to Egypt (Genesis 46:27). However, when we count all the names listed in the Bible, we only count 69! Who was the seventieth individual?
His Loving Presence Is Constant
According to Jewish tradition, a similar discrepancy occurred when the Jews were exiled to Babylon in 582 BCE. The Babylonians counted the Jewish captives when they left Israel and again when they reached the shores of Babylon. However, no matter how many people were counted before the boat set sail, there was always one more than the original number when the ship arrived.
The Babylonians were baffled, but the Jews explained, “As soon as we went into exile, our God joined us. He is found on each boat together with His children.”
Similarly, when the children of Israel went down to Egypt, the beginning of a harsh exile, God went with them. The Jewish sages suggested that God was that seventieth individual, as the verse says, “I will go down to Egypt with you.”
When God’s children began the bitter Egyptian exile, He was right there by their side, holding their hands and loving them. Because when God’s children go through difficulties, our loving heavenly Father, comes with us, too. God’s loving presence is constant.
It is often when we feel most alone that we are the least on our own. As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” We never face the darkness alone, and with God by our side, we can get through anything!
What helps you feel close to God? Is it reading the bible, praying, going to a particular place, or doing a specific activity? Pick one thing that inspires you and do it today!