By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
The reunion of Yaakov’s family is a turning point in the
creation of the Jewish people. It enables the
fulfillment of the first stage of the "Covenant Between
the Parts" (Bereishit 15:7-21), for now begins the historic process
leading to the redemption from Egypt.
Yosef reveals his true identity and immediately plans for the future:
And Yosef said to his brothers, “Please approach me.” And they
approached. And he said, “I am Yosef your brother whom you sold to Egypt.
But now, do not be sad and let it not be disturbing in your eyes that you
sold me here, because it was to preserve life that G-d
sent me before you” (Bereishit 45:4-5).
Everything has really been planned by Hashem, although Yosef is
in a position to bring Hashem’s designs to fruition.
The family must relocate to Egypt because the famine
will last another five years.
Yosef commands his brothers to return home and to bring Yaakov and the
entire family to settle in Goshen, where they can tend their flocks
undisturbed. There they will be fully provided by Yosef, vizier of Egypt.
“And you shall tell my father of all my honor (KVODI) in Egypt,
and all that you have seen. And you shall hasten and
bring my father down here” (verse 13).
Yosef obtains Pharaoh’s permission to bring his family to Goshen, and
Pharaoh orders Yosef to commission wagons to transport all the members
of his family, their herds, and their furnishings to Egypt. Yosef uses
all the authority at his disposal to provide for his
family’s safe and smooth transition to their new
It would seem that nothing is lacking in the preparations for Yaakov’s
family’s resettlement. However, Yaakov, had “sent Yehudah ahead to Yosef,
to direct (L’HOROT) before him in Goshen” (46:28). Yehudah, the natural
leader among the brothers, who risked himself for the safety of Binyamin,
is selected, but for what task?
Rashi quotes the Targum: “Yehudah is sent ahead to clear a place for the
family and to learn how to settle in Goshen.” The question arises: After
all the groundwork laid by Yosef, under the
authorization of Pharaoh, what further preparation is
Radak (R. David Kimchi, c. 1160-c. 1235) and Chizkuni (R. Chizkiya ben Manoach,
mid 13th Century) say: Yehudah is to learn and then instruct
(L’HOROT) what is the most direct route to Goshen, without having to go
through the other parts of Egypt. This may be, as Ramban says (on 45:10),
because Yaakov would not want to have any unnecessary contact with the royal
city. Yaakov wishes to minimize the affects of the Egyptian environment on
himself and on his family.
Rashi, quoting the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 95:3), offers a different
explanation for L’HOROT: “to establish for him a house of study, from which
would issue Torah instruction (HORA’AH).” As Yaakov transplants his dwelling to
Egypt, he must continue the chain of Torah learning, spiritual development, and
halachic rulings that had been founded in Canaan.
Yaakov is a crucial link in the chain of Torah that stretches back to Adam
(Seder Olam Rabbah, Ch. 1). He learned with Shem son of Noach, and with Shem’s
great-grandson Ever, with his own grandfather Avraham, and with his father
Yitzchak. Now, however, that all these spiritual giants are no longer alive,
Yaakov must take the responsibility of making Goshen his family’s new home a
center for Torah.
But, should not Yosef, who had all of Egypt at his feet, and the full power of
the throne to support him, have done this himself?
R. Zalman Sorotzkin (1881-1966) therefore adds an even deeper insight into this
Midrash. When Yosef says “And you shall tell my father of all my honor (KVODI)
in Egypt, and all that you have seen,” he hopes to excuse himself in his
father’s eyes for not having established a Torah center. He means to say: I have
been too burdened (KAVED) with the responsibilities of saving lives and this
was the reason that G-d sent me here ahead of you. Nevertheless, “I am Yosef”
I am the same Yosef; I still invoke the name of G-d. But I have been too busy
with the crucial duties of collecting and distributing food to create Torah
R. Sorotzkin then adds that Yaakov’s dispatching of Yehudah is an implicit
criticism of Yosef: you should not have ignored this important task, even if you
were engaged in saving lives. This idea is expressed in the words of our Sages:
“The teaching of Torah is greater than saving lives” (Megillah 16b) Yosef was
still obligated to set up yeshivot.
In order to understand this ordering of priorities and its application to Yosef
and Yaakov, we must examine its context in the Talmud. There, the Sages discuss
a situation with many a parallel to that of Yosef, namely the life of Mordechai.
Although he once served on the Sanhedrin and was involved in the dissemination
of Torah and its values, however, after the salvation
of Purim, Mordechai was elevated to the position of
vizier of Persia. From that point, he found favor with
the majority of his brethren (Esther 10:3).
On this, the Talmud (ibid.) comments: “with the majority of his
brethren, but not with all his brethren.” This teaches that several of the
members of the Sanhedrin became estranged from him. Mordechai’s standing was
lowered in the eyes of these sages because his community responsibilities took
him away from the duty to spread Torah.
Yosef, too, needed to learn this essential lesson from Yaakov.
R. Sorotzkin explains: All the responsibilities of life even the responsibility
to save lives do not exempt one from strengthening Torah.
Life alone is merely existence, only subsistence. But a life centered around the
Torah is truly living.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
What is the relevance of this week's Haftorah to the Parshah? The Parshah
tells the story of the reunification of Yosef with his brothers and his
father Yaacov, and Yaacov's subsequent journey to Egypt with his entire
family; the Haftorah (Yechezkel 35:15-28) recounts the prophecy of
Yechezkel concerning the redemption of Bnei Yisrael and the building of
the Beit Hamikdash. How then are the Parshah and the Haftorah related?
The Gemara (Megilah 16b) quotes Rabbi Elazar who expounds Bereishit 45:14
to teach that when he embraced Binyamin, Yosef wept over the future
destruction of the two Temples which were built in Binyamin's portion of
Eretz Yisrael. Binyamin wept when they embraced because of the future
destruction of Mishkan Shiloh in Yosef's portion of Eretz Yisrael. At this
dramatic encounter of the only two children of Rachel Imaynu, two brothers
who had not seen each other since childhood, their first reaction was to
weep because they foresaw the future Galut of Bnei Yisrael!
Now we can understand why Chazal chose this Haftorah for this Parshah. At
the same time that we mourn the destruction of our Temple and suffer the
pain of Galut, we recall with joy and gladness the assurance that Hashem
will grant us final redemption.
What better time than the present when we are privileged to witness the
beginning of that redemption to dedicate ourselves to the welfare and
future of Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael. Above all it is key to
realize that there can be no greater support for Eretz Yisrael and no
greater assurance of its growth and future than Aliyah L'Aretz.
Rabbi Binyamin Walfish, Jerusalem
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320