"An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather. He descended to Egypt and
sojourned there" (26:5)
Whenever we thank Hashem for His kindness to
us, it is also important to mention the merits of our forefathers and Hashem's promises to them. We do this to be certain we realize that the kindness Hashem does for us are not in the merit of our own mitzvos and good deeds.
Indeed, in the opinion of Sefer Mitzvos Gedolah such thoughts are
forbidden. Many people make the mistake of thinking that Hashem blesses them because of their own righteousness, but this is an error for which they are required to do teshuvah like any other sin.
On the surface there seems to be no connection
between the attempt of Laban the Aramean to destroy our forefather Jacob and Jacob's later descent to Egypt. Why, then, does the Torah relate the two events in the same verse? Although Rashi comments that not only Laban but
others, including the Egyptians sought to destroy us, we would like to suggest a more direct connection between these two events.
Elsewhere (Bereishis 32:5) ,
Rashi tells us that in spite of all the trials to which Jacob was
subjected throughout his sojourn with Laban, he observed all the commandments. We may assume that had he succumbed to Laban's wicked influence in any way, he would not willingly have taken his family to Egypt, with the far greater trials he knew awaited him there. True, Joseph was ruler over all of Egypt and still remained as much of a tzaddik as he had always been. Nonetheless, Jacob
would not have exposed his family to the spiritual dangers of Egypt in the hope that they would remain committed there to the path of Torah and Mitzvos
based on the experience of one individual.
Hashem wanted Jacob to go to Egypt of his own
free will, not in chains as Joseph has gone. It was therefore necessary that Jacob spent time in Laban's house to assure himself of his ability to overcome Laban's attempts to destroy him and his family as a Torah unit. Having prevailed in that situation and having left there intact, he would agree to go to Egypt. Thus the attempt of Laban the Aramean to destroy our forefather Jacob was a necessary precondition for Jacob's voluntary descent to Egypt.