By Channa Lockshin Bob
In Hashem’s final revelation to Yaakov, He promises “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you back up.” We know that Yaakov dies in Egypt, so how is this promise fulfilled?
According to Rashi, the promise is that Yaakov will be buried in Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov, like some Jews in later generations, is able to return to Eretz Yisrael in death though he was not able to in life.
Another possible explanation, proposed by the Midrash, is that the promise of returning to Eretz Yisrael refers not to Yaakov himself but to all of Am Yisrael. Hashem is reassuring Yaakov that although he and his descendants are going down to Egypt, the nation will ultimately return.
These two explanations represent two aspects of aliya. One is the personal fulfillment achieved by making aliyah; just as Yaakov was just glad to know that his body would reach Eretz Yisrael, so for many of us just physically being in Eretz Yisrael is exciting and gratifying. The other aspect is national fulfillment; every Jew who makes aliya is also completing the lives of those who came before him and could not get here. Yaakov Avinu returns to Eretz Yisrael not only through the burial of his body here, but through the continued return of his living children.
Originally appeared in OU Israel’s Torah Tidbits