Everyone has a Plan
As soon as Yaakov hears that Yosef is still alive, he immediately decides to go visit him:
"And Yisrael said, 'My son Yosef is still alive, I must go and see him before I die.'" (see 45:28)Does Yaakov plan to return immediately to Eretz Canaan after this visit? Is there any reason that he shouldn't?
It's not quite clear what Yaakov's original intentions may have been, but Yosef (as usual) already has detailed plans, of which he had informed his brothers:
"Quickly go up to my father and tell him, thus says your son Yosef: God has made me master over all of Egypt. Come down to me, do not stay [in Canaan]; for you should dwell in the land of Goshen to be near me, you and your children... And I will provide for you there, for another five years of famine still remain, lest you perish, you and your entire household..." (45:9-11)Clearly, Yosef intends for his family to stay for more than just a 'long weekend.' On the other hand, he is not inviting them to make Egypt their permanent home, either. He wants the family to come to Egypt specifically "because five years of famine still remain!" What will happen once the famine is over and economic conditions in Canaan improve? Most likely, Yaakov and his family plan to (and should) return to their homeland.
God, however, has a different plan, which He reveals to Yaakov before his departure from Eretz Canaan. To better appreciate God's plan, we must first trace Yaakov's trip from Chevron to Egypt:
"And Yisrael travelled with all that was his, and came to Beer Sheva, and he offered 'zevachim' (sacrifices, peace offerings) to the God of his father Yitzchak." (46:1) (See Board #1.)When studying this pasuk, several questions arise:
To answer these questions, we must first consider Yaakov's concerns at this point in time.
[From God's response to Yaakov in the psukim that follow - "Don't worry..." (see 46:1-3) - we can infer that something certainly troubled Yaakov.]
Most probably, Yaakov is worried because he is leaving Eretz Canaan. Recall that his father Yitzchak, even in times of famine, was not permitted to leave the land:
"And there was a famine in the Land ... and God appeared to him (Yitzchak) and said to him: Do not go down to Egypt, stay in the Land that I show you..." (see 26:1-3)In that very same "hitgalut" to Yitzchak, God even explained the reason that he could not leave - because he was the 'chosen' son of Avraham Avinu:
"Reside in this Land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your offspring I have given these Lands, and I will fulfill the oath which I have sworn to Avraham..." (26:3-4)Although Avraham himself was permitted to leave the Land during a famine, Yitzchak, his chosen son, was required to stay in the Land.
Understandably, then, Yaakov had reason for concern prior to his settlement in Egypt. Although he had once received permission to leave Eretz Canaan (in Parshat Vayetze; see 28:10-20), his situation then was quite different, as he faced immediate, life-threatening danger (see 27:41-43). And even then, Yaakov still needed divine reassurance that although he was leaving Eretz Canaan, God would continue to look after him and bring him back:
"And behold I will be with you and take care of you on your journey, and I will bring you back to this land..." (28:15)[Note that on that first journey from Eretz Canaan, Yaakov also left specifically from Beer Sheva (see 28:10)!]
Now, in Parshat Vayigash, Yaakov's situation is a bit different. Survival in Eretz Canaan, however difficult, is still possible, as food could be imported from Egypt. Furthermore, if it was so important for Yosef to see his father, why couldn't he come to Eretz Canaan? Is it absolutely necessary for Yaakov to resettle his entire family in Egypt at this time?
Unquestionably, Yaakov has what to worry about.