OU Torah Insights
Rabbi Moshe Hauer
January 2, 1999
Twice daily, in our
prayers, we recall the Exodus from Egypt, affirming our faith by remembering the miracles
that demonstrated G-d's power over nature.
however, is an earlier attempt at exodus, detailed in Parshas Vayechi, that would
have appeared entirely natural. After the death of Yaakov, Yosef and his brothers ask
Pharaoh to allow them to go to the Holy Land to bury him.
allows them to gobut only the adults; their children and property were left behind
as a guarantee for their return. Apparently, the brothers had been looking to make this
their final departure from Egypt, to take their families to the Holy Land for good.
Pharaoh said no.
But what if Pharaoh had
allowed them all to go? Would this have been a suitable time for redemption, for Yetzias
Redemption has one
critical condition: It must demonstrate G-d's strength as the force behind it. This goal
of achieving revelation through redemption is repeatedly emphasized throughout the story
of the Exodus, which stresses that the miracles of geulah produced an appreciation
of G-ds dominant strength.
In the story of Yosef
and his brothers, as well, revelation is a dominant theme. Yosef's wisdom is consistently
seen as imbued with the G-dly spirit, as he repeatedly invokes G-d as the engineer of the
complex set of circumstances that brought him to his high position in Egypt.
His brothers, on the
other hand, see things differently. They perceive Yosefs turbulent experiences as a
result of their own bad behavior. The element of redemption is eclipsed by the glare of
their own cruelty and its painful consequences for Yosef. In a series of events so
dominated by the hateful and harmful hands of man, they do not perceive the gentle hand of
This lack of perception
is highlighted when Hashem ruefully contrasts His method of involvement with the
Israelites of Egypt to the way He had related to their forefathers.
As Rabbi Yehuda Halevy
explains in his Kuzari, G-d had not revealed miracles to the forefathers, as their
faith did not require it. But to the entirety of Klal Yisrael, it had become necessary to
bring about redemption through miraculous means.
For the new generation,
not sensitive to the subtleties of G-d's hand in nature, a flash of brilliance was needed.
It takes far greater perception and sensitivity to see G-d in the ordinary.
Tradition teaches that
the final redemption will come in two stages, the first achieved through Mashiach ben
Yosef and the second through Mashiach ben David. The Gaon of Vilna teaches that the first
stage will be accomplished with Yosef's approach, through natural means, while the second
stage will be built on miracles.
Perceptive people will
merit to see G-d's redemptive presence in His hidden hand in history, long before the rest
of us reacognize it from the miraculous events that even the blind can see.
One can only wonder:
Had all the brothers shared Yosef's perception, had they seen in this story the geulah
that Yosef saw, would the subsequent era of slavery have been necessary? Could this
journey to bury Yaakov have been the final trip to Israel, culminating in the triumphant
acknowledgment of exceptionally ordinary G-dliness?
And are we perhaps
failing to notice the same thing: the final chapters of redemption as they occur in our
own lives and in the national life of Klal Yisrael?
Rabbi Moshe Hauer
Rabbi Hauer is
rabbi of Bnai Jacob Congregation, Baltimore, MD.
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