Parshas Vayigash

Yosef has revealed himself to his brothers and is about to send them back to Yaakov. The brothers are in turn going to inform Yaakov Avinu of Yosef’s existence and his prominence, in the hope of luring Yaakov down to Mitzraim. As Yosef is about to send them off, Paroh instructs Yosef to send wagons, or in Hebrew agalot (45, 19). The Torah then tells us that Yosef sent the wagons as per Paroh’s instructions (45, 21). Thus far there seems to be no discrepancy. However, a few verses later the Torah tells us that Yaakov saw the Agalot that Yosef had sent for him and his spirits were revived (45, 27). One could have dismissed the account of Yosef’s sending of the wagons as simply informing us that he had executed Paroh’s command. The point being made there is that while it was Paroh who had given the order, it was Yosef who actually sent them, thereby also taking direct responsibility for the action.

The passuk tells us that the brothers informed Yaakov that Yosef was alive, that he governed the whole of Egypt, and that Yaakov didn’t believe them(45, 26). It was only after he saw the wagons that Yaakov finally believed them. (45, 27). Why didn’t he before he saw the wagons?

The Midrash tells us that the topic which Yaakov and Yosef last studied together was Egla-Arufa (see Rashi, Midrash-Rabba, and Tanchuma). The Midrash explains that Yaakov Avinu saw in these Agalot a hint from Yosef that he had maintained his Torah learning during his entire stay in Egypt just as they had left off, and had remained a true Torah Jew. The simple understanding of this hint is that when Yaakov looked at the Agalot he thought of its root’s homonym Egla and then drew the conclusion that this was meant to be a hint to Yosef’s Torah study and religiousness.

This Midrash seemingly leaves much to be desired, for the word עגלות and עגלה have nothing in common except that they are spelled similarly. Furthermore, had Yosef wanted to hint to his remaining true to the Torah why would he not have sent a real Egla? Wouldn’t that have been a less subtle but clearer hint? This would appear to be especially true since the idea of sending the Agalot was not his in the first place. Sending a real Egla, a real calf could then more easily be interpreted as a message from Yosef to his father.

Had Yosef indeed wanted to show his commitment to Talmud Torah why didn’t he pick another topic he had studied with his father? The last topic he studied with Yaakov was most probably the easiest one to remember, but wouldn’t some other topic he had learned earlier be a better proof to his bond with Torah?

The Gemarah in Brachos tells us that afilu sichas chulin shel talmidei chachamim divrei Torah heim (tzrichim Talmud) that even the mundane conversation of Torah scholars constitutes Divrei Torah. Of the many explanations the commentators give for this Talmudic passage there is one that perhaps should be given special attention: since Talmidei Chachamim are constantly engrossed in Torah their every word is coloured by the Torah, their every interaction is influenced by the Torah. In other words Chachamim think through the eyes of the Torah and hence they see the Torah in everything.

The above certainly applies to Yaakov, the archetype of the Talmid Chacham. Paroh told Yosef to send wagons, but when Yaakov saw these agalot his Torah oriented mind translated them as their homonym eglot as in eglah arufah, the last sugyah he studied with Yosef.

Yaakov didn’t believe his sons that Yosef could be alive and be the ruler of Egypt. That he might after all be alive and living in Egypt — maybe. But that Yosef should have become also the ruler of Egypt?

When Yaakov saw the agalot he had his answer. Yosef was indeed the prized son of Yaakov Avinu, but that was because of all the Torah which he had studied together with Yaakov (see Baal-Haturim and Medrash-Rabba, Miketz). These agalot triggered in Yaakov’s mind that last Sugya he had learned together with Yosef and he remembered that he was especially dear to him for his Torah. The Gemarah in Sota tells us that the Torah confers on those who hold it dear a unique protection. Yaakov understood that Yosef had protected himself and enabled himself to advance to a position of power through Torah. Indeed, it was possible that Yosef was alive and governed the whole of Egypt. Thus the Torah tells us of the agolot that Yosef sent because with his insight Yaakov understood the message which Yosef had sent.

Klal-Yisroel has survived and triumphed throughout history solely through this inherent strength which lies within the Torah HaKdosha. It is only through Torah study and honouring the Torah that we will continue to exist and triumph. Ultimately it is with Torah that we will have the ultimate victory and bring the Mashiach Hashem.

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The Sedra opens as Yehudah is beseeching Yosef or rather, “Tzofnas Paneach “, to have pity on Binyomen. Although it appeared that Binyamin had stolen and was indeed guilty of felony, Yehudah requests that for the sake of Yaakov Avinu who was old and in emotional distress Yosef should have mercy. Yehuda retells the whole story of Binyomin coming down to Egypt. Yehuda explains the difficulty in convincing Yaakov Avinu to allow Binyomin to come down, stressing therefore, how imperative it is that he must return to Yaakov Avinu. The Torah however prefaces this attempt by Yehudah for Binyomen’s freedom with a seemingly excessive introduction. The Torah tells us that Yehudah said to Yosef: “Please my master, please allow your servant to say something to my master, and don’t turn your wrath upon your servant for there is no one like you, for you are like Paroh”.

We could excuse this narration as not being excessive, rather enlightening us as to the extent the brothers feared and honored Yosef, the Grand Visor to Paroh. However the Medrash (Rabbah and Tanchuma) express the opposite. Yehuda spoke harshly to Yosef and even threatened him that they would take on the whole Egypt. No   matter how we look at Yehudah’s approach there still seems to be redundancy in his actual words. Yehudah seems to say please just one too many times.

There is a noticeable difference between how the Targum Unklus and Targum Yonoson translate the first “please”. The Targum Yonasson translates it simply as please, and Targum Unklus translates it as   “beseeching’’. The word that the Targum Unklus uses for beseeching is a word generally used for davening. Additionally, the Medrash learns from the Hebrew word “Vayigash” that Yehudah davened to Hashem. The content of that prayer is not mentioned in the Medrash.

It seems that the Targum Unklus understands that since we know that word “Vayigash” is indicative of davening, and there seems to be two separate pleases in the Passuk, we may conclude that one of them is really a reference to his davening to Hashem. Logic would further dictate that the first “please” would be prayer, for praying to Hashem comes before beseeching flesh and blood.

Concluding that the Targum is indeed referring to prayer when he translates the first please, then the content of the prayer of Yehudah onto Hashem contained the very same words that Yehudah said to Yosef. While Yehudah appeared to be beseeching Yosef, he was in reality talking to Hashem.

Whether there is a lesson to be learned for how we should daven or for any particular aspect of davening is not clear. What is clear however, is the lesson this teaches us about Hishtadlus – the efforts that we put into achieving our own success. While sometimes we must talk, beg, or even toil physically we must always place Hashem first. We must realize that in essence it is Hashem who is controlling our ultimate success, thus we must consciously view all our “hishtadlus” as an act of Tefillah and Avodas Hashem.

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It is in this week’s Sedra that Yosef makes himself known to his brothers. The Torah tells us when Yosef revealed his true identity to them, his brothers couldn’t answer him כי נבהלנו מפניו – because they were shocked. The word “shocked”, however, doesn’t seem to accurately translate the phrase כי נבהלנו מפניו as Rashi (based on Chazal in numerous places) explains that the brothers’ inability to talk was due to their embarrassment or shame.

The Medrash (Rabba, see also Tanna Devei Eliyahu) explains: if the Shivtei Kah could not answer Yosef and found themselves speechless because of their embarrassment in front of Yosef, then all the more so how will we react when we face Hashem at the time of our Final Judgment?

The Gemorah (Brachos and Chazal in various other places) tells us that when we are confronted by Yissurim (suffering, travail) we must engage in introspection and think about our own actions because Yissurim are reminders and punishments for our wrongdoings. Chazal explain that Hashem punishes in a just manner – that the punishment fits the crime. Hence our introspection is made all the more simple since generally our Yissurim will be similar to the wrongdoing committed.

While Chazal tell us that we must harness the difficulties we encounter by identifying what wrongdoing these difficulties might be related to, we so often do not do so. Instead we merely get aggravated or agitated by them.

Yosef’s brothers had already assumed that the calamities that had recently befallen them had to do with their misconduct toward Yosef. Nonetheless, when Yosef identified himself they were too astonished to talk. They realized that Yosef’s dreams were indeed true and that they had jumped the gun. It was too much for them to bear; they became completely catatonic. The Kal Vechomer to our final day of judgment is just that. While we may choose to ignore the messages imbedded in our every difficulty, one day these will nevertheless all be revealed to us. The revelation will cause catatonia. We will be utterly speechless – for the obvious lessons we ignored.

While it may be impossible for us to get every message and lesson sent to us – we can still try to harness as many as possible. The basic lesson is difficulties = lessons.

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This week’s Sedra opens with Yehuda taking the heroic role of advocating clemency for Binyomin’s supposed crime of stealing Yosef’s goblet. Eventually Yosef can no longer contain himself and reveals his identity to his brothers. Yosef tells them ‘I am the Yosef you sold to be a slave in the land of Egypt’. Yosef creates the obvious contrast between his brothers’ attitude then when they were willing to sell him and almost kill him without his having committed any crime and now, when they are courageously defending Binyomin when it would seem (to anyone but those involved in ‘planting the evidence’) that he did commit a crime. What caused this total about-face?

It would appear that when the Shevatim witnessed their father’s suffering following the disappearance of Yosef, they realized the enormous impact that the loss of a child had had on their father. The B’Ohalei Tzadikim explains that the love a father has for a son is greater than the love a son can ever have for a father. The B’Ohalei Tzadikim explains that this is so because it was programmed into mankind from Adam Harishon. Adam Harishon didn’t have a father, but he had a son. Adam therefore could not love a father, but he loved a son.

While neither Yosef nor Binyomin became sons of the other Shevatim, the Shevatim were able to become more conscious of the fact that Yosef and Binyomin were their father’s sons. The Shevatim became sensitive to the paternal emotions Yaakov Avinu had towards his sons.

Chazal tell us (Avos) that mankind is dear because mankind was created in the image of Hashem. Chazal then continue and tell us Am-Yisroel is even dearer as we are called sons of Hashem.

Each and every member of Am-Yisroel is Banim LaHashem (sons to Hashem) and as such we must realize that Hashem has tremendous love and appreciation for every single Jew. Perhaps if we were to recognize each Jew as a son of Hashem we would cease to have so many internal struggles and we would be able to come together with Avinu Shebashamayim. It was when the Shivtei Kah recognized each other as Bnei Yaakov that Yaakov was able to reunite with all his children together.

May Hashem reunite with all of his children in the very near future.

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This week’s Haftorah is a nevuah of Yechezkel. Hashem appears to Yechezkel and instructs him to take one stick and write on it ‘Yehuda’ and to take a second stick and write on it ‘Ephraim’. Hashem then further instructs Yechezkel to bring the two sticks together and tells Yechezkel Hanavi that when he does this the sticks will become one. Hashem explains to Yechezkel that this symbolizes the Kibbutz Galuyos (Ingathering of the Exiles) when all of Klal-Yisroel will come together under one king from Malchus Yehuda.

It seems very obvious that the reason we read this Haftorah is because our Parsha speaks of the reunion of Yosef with the rest of the Shevatim. While there is definitely a parallel, there seems to be an even stronger contrast. In our Sedra the tribes come together under the rule of Yosef Hatzadik, whereas in the Haftorah the tribes unite under the rule of Malchus Yehuda. Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to choose something else for the Haftorah, something which appears to conflict with our Sedra?

Throughout Tanach it is clear that the only legitimate Malchus is Malchus Yehuda. Malchus Yosef Hatzadik is never granted the same legitimacy. It seems that Yosef only has some sort of temporary role.

Yosef always came into the picture as a leader in order to unite Klal-Yisroel. When Yosef went to find his brothers in Shechem, he said: “Es Achai Anochi Mevakesh” – “I am seeking out my brothers”. When Yeravam established the Kingdom of Israel, he was rebelling against Shlomo’s son Rechavam who was abusing his own Kingship (of what then became the Kingdom of Yehuda) by oppressing Am-Yisroel (Yeravam and his malchus eventually became idol worshipers, but his original attentions were to protect Am-Yisroel).

Perhaps this is the message of the Haftorah: Yosef was a Tzadik who only watched out for Klal-Yisroel’s well being. His Malchus was very crucial at points in time and often saved Klal-Yisroel from destruction. However this shouldn’t be misconstrued with genuine Melucha. The real Melucha is and will always be reserved for Malchus Yehuda. Malchus Yosef will serve as the conduit to bring about the unity under Malchus Yehuda, but the Melucha will be that of Yehuda.

May we be Zoche to see the rapid reunion of the entire Am-Yisroel under Melech Yehuda.