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B'resheet/Genesis 46:28 And he sent Judah before him to Yosef to clear before him to Goshen.
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The verb , a Hifil infinitive construct from the root , has generated discussion among the commentators. The basic root meaning is "to throw, cast; to shoot, as an arrow" (Davidson), but can also cover laying a foundation or sprinkling with water. In the causitive - Hifil - stem, the meanings "to point out, show; to teach, instruct" are added and from that sense the noun (Torah) is derived, really meaning "instruction, direction" but most often translated as "law". A measure of interpretation, therefore, is needed to understand how the word is used in this context.
Two suggestions are very close to the text. The first is adopted byTargum Onkelos, who replaces the word with - to clear - which is understood as clearing a place, clearing through any local bureaucracy, possibly even clearing the land of other buildings or tenants, so that Jacob and his family could settle there together. Perhaps this could be likened to the way that when a travelling circus comes to town the advance party locate the camp-site, work out the best arrangements for the Big Top and all the vehicles, make arrangements for local deliveries of food or other supplies, put up the posters for advertising and liaise with the press.
The second stream focuses on the physical preparation, than on cultural matters. This idea sees Judah being sent to reconnoitre among the local people, to discover their language and customs so that when Jacob and the family arrive they could integrate comfortably without causing unnecessary offence to the previous residents of the area. At the same time, since Jacob would be coming as the father of the Viceroy of Egypt, Pharaoh's right-hand man, Judah would have to teach the local people who Jacob and the rest of the family were and explain their culture and lifestyle to the Egyptians so that everyone knew what was going to happen.
The Midrash extends this still further by suggesting that Jacob sent Judah ahead to establish a house of study in Goshen so that the family would be able to continue their Torah study uninterrupted by their journey and arrival in Egypt. "Said Rabbi Nehemiah: to prepare an academy for him there where he would teach Torah and where the tribal ancestors would read the Torah" (B'resheet Rabbah 95:3).Rashi adds, "to establish for him a house of study from which instruction shall go forth", in an allusion to "For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3, NASB). The rabbis see Jacob and his sons teaching the Egyptians about the G-d of Israel and His ways as well as simply studying themselves.
TheSforno takes another interesting step. "To show the way before him unto Goshen ... so that Judah should prepare and establish a home in Goshen before the arrival of Jacob." This surely reminds us of Yeshua's words when He said to His followers, "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). They had been talking during the Passover meal; Judas had just gone out to arrange the time and place with the Temple leaders where he was to betray Yeshua to them; Yeshua reminded the talmidim - as He had told them before - that He was about to go away and they they could not come with Him. Yeshua tells the disciples not to be afraid and to focus on their belief in Him and the Father, then says, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3, NASB). Yeshua was going ahead, to prepare a place - in some translations "mansion" or "house" - for the disciples so that they could be with Him. Just as Judah was sent out to make preparations and to return to Jacob to accompany him on his journey, so Yeshua promises that once the places are ready, He will return to collect the disciples and personally escort them to that place where He will be with them; they they may be where He is.
The Bible is very clear that things don't "just happen"; careful preparation is required before things come into being or occur. In fact, G-d always trails anything significant so that we don't miss it. In times of distress, He tells our people, "Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert" (Isaiah 43:18-19, NASB); they are told not to worry about things that have already happened but to open their eyes and be aware of what G-d is about to do - something new, something quite different, something supernatural such as a river flowing in the desert. "Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you" (Isaiah 42:9, NASB); G-d tells us about the new and amazing things that He is about to do so that when they happen we will know that they have come from Him and not from any other source or natural phenomenon. In His preparations, G-d foreknew us - as Yeshua said: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27, NASB) and Rav Sha'ul wrote: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Romans 8:29-30, NASB) - and He prepared the things that we should do and the way that we should walk: "For we are of G-d's making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by G-d for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10, CJB).
Our participation in preparation is needed to make the process work. Yeshua told His talmidim to "Go and prepare our Seder, so we can eat" (Luke 22:8, CJB); the Passover meal would not just happen of its own accord, they needed to go and physically make preparations: buy food, spices, drink, make arrangements for cooking and so on; they had to "get it ready", "do the work". We, with the disciples, are urged to be ready for Yeshua's return, we are instructed to provide for our families, we are told to work in order that we may eat. We partner with G-d in the work of the kingdom. Rav Sha'ul said, "For we are G-d's co-workers; you are G-d's field, G-d's building" (1 Corinthians 3:9, CJB). In these days, it is this generation of believers that has been sent ahead to prepare the way for the L-rd, we are the voices that cry in the wilderness; we are the ones who establish the houses of study, who teach our neighbours about the L-rd and His ways, if not formally then by our lives.
Further Study: Amos 3:7; 2 Corinthians 6:1
Application: Do you hear the call to prepare? Do you long for the King to return and for many to be ready to receive Him? There has never been a better time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into the harvest. Ask the L-rd of the Harvest what your assignment is today!
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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