After all the years of grief at the disappearance of his beloved Joseph he learns that his son is indeed alive and is a high official in the Egyptian government.
Joseph yearns to see his father, and the father yearns to see his son. But leaving the Holy Land to go to Egypt is not so easy to contemplate. Only when God promises to go down with him and to come up again does the old man agree to make the journey (Gen. 46:4).
The question we ask is why God uses the phrase, “I will go down with you”. It is unlikely that He is talking geography.
The choice of words has to do with the spiritual status of the two lands. For God, for Judaism, going to Israel is to go up: leaving Israel is to go down.
Nothing should persuade a Jew otherwise. Yes, Israel is not yet a perfect society, and there are many, often clashing views as to its policies and priorities. But Israel is the land which has the Divine blessing above all other lands.
It is the site of centuries of communion with the Almighty. It is there that the prophets lived, dreamed, spoke and wrote. It is there that the Jewish people concentrated their hopes, prayers, tears and laughter.
Israelis may sometimes irritate you, but there is a national spirit of chesed – lovingkindness – that is unique and inspiring. There is deep spirituality; and especially in Jerusalem, even the supposed secularist has a religious heart. Out of Zion literally goes forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
A recent adult class were asked what Israel meant to Judaism. Most respondents became poets as they offered moving phrases and ideas. Unfortunately one participant seemed to say that Israel meant nothing to Judaism. But this runs counter to the whole of Jewish history, literature, experience and emotion.
No other spot on earth could ever compete with Israel. It is past, present and future for Judaism. It is not only history and contemporary fulfillment: it is a taste of the messianic redemption.