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Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin, in his work "Pri Tzadik" on Parashas Vayechi 1:5 explains:

The completion of Jacob's holiness is specifically in Egypt, and not in the land of Israel. This coincides with the notion that the revelation and arrival of the Jewish People which contains the souls which were prepared for the acceptance of the Torah specifically in a foreign land and not in Israel, and that the end of the creation of the world occurs in the land of Egypt. These concepts are closed(Satum) from human understanding. (emphasis mine)

In the beginning of his commentary on parashas Vayechi, the Pri Tzadik explains:

All the days of Jacob when he was in pain was not considered to be life because they were not completed in holiness (?) and only in Egypt did he merit to complete them in his holiness. Logic would dictate that since Israel is the place of greatest holiness in the world, as G-d told Abraham to leave Aram and go to the land of Israel, and Isaac was told that he would be blessed if he lived in this land. Jacob himself loved the land, and it would have been fitting for Jacob to complete his life in holiness in the holy land, and not in Egypt which is an impure land, and its people are more polluted than any other.

The Pri Tzadik already says that it might be hard to believe that Yaakov's holiness is specifically in Egypt and not in Eretz Yisrael, but he says that we also got the Torah outside of Eretz Yisrael and that during the exiles, the Torah expanded (Oral Torah). But this does not answer the question why only in Mitzrayim, a place of corruption (Rashi, Vayikra 18:3, cited in Hayom Yom, Teves 18), Yaakov was able to attain a higher level of holiness.

Are there mefarshim, contemporary or other, that explain why Yaakov needed to be in Mitzrayim in order to attain a higher level of holiness?

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  • Yaakov fought the Sar Eisav (according to Rashi, the angel he fought earlier), which represents the evil of the nations, so where else but in the lowest of the nations would he fight the strongest against the environment? See perhaps the Yismach Moshe on last week's parsha or was it the week before? I heard it over at someone's table and don't really have the fluency to look it up in Sefaria. Jan 4, 2023 at 2:59

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Yes, there are mafarshim, both contemporary and otherwise, particularly those dealing with Chassidut, that address the subject of Yaacov Avinu needing the descent to Mitzrayim to attain the higher level.

This is basically dealing with the concept of Returning Light אור חוזר, which pertains specifically to Yaacov Avinu, in contrast to both Avraham and Yitzchok Avinu who are associated with Radiating Light אור ישר.

This is also the underlying reason why the Kabbalistic letter transformation associated with Yaacov Avinu is in At-Bash א׳ת-ב׳ש and written, generally in reverse order.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe discusses this principle in many places dealing with the concept of Descent for the sake of Ascent ירידה לצורך עליה.

An excellent Chassidic discourse with numerous source citations for further understanding of the concept is found beginning on page 351 in תורת מנחם התוועדויות תשמ''ח - חלק ב. Enjoy the learning and make sure to actually look up the source citations.

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  • Fantastic, thanks Yaacov. Could you name any mefarshim that discusses this same idea?
    – Shmuel
    Jan 4, 2023 at 17:47
  • @Shmuel That's why I said to be sure to learn the Ma'amar with the footnotes. Those footnotes will take you everywhere you want to see, Shas and midrash, kabbalstic sources and the previous Rebbes of previous generations (whose discourses are also heavily sourced with notes). Jan 4, 2023 at 18:11
  • If you could provide a short English explanation of the section that deals with it, that would be much appreciated. In Kuntres Acharon Shel Pesach, 5747 (Sefer HaMaamarim Meluket, Vol. II, p. 45ff.) the Rebbe deals shortly with this, but does not explain exactly what it means.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 4, 2023 at 18:42
  • @Shmuel As I reflect on your last request, my instinct is to say that learning the complete linked discourse is the best path, not translating a small piece. If you want to see the specific reference associated with Yaacov Avinu, look at page 358 in the link. But to comprehend the subject, absolutely nothing should be left out. It's a very important concept. It's worth noting that this Ma'amar was said by the Rebbe in the first 3 days following the histalkut of the Rebbetzin, his wife, Chaya Mushka, A"H. Jan 4, 2023 at 20:12
  • Thank you. I will be looking into it.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 4, 2023 at 20:28

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