First Aliya – 13 p’sukim (44:18-30)
The sedra begins with the dramatic confrontation between Yehuda and Yosef. Yehuda risks his life when he approaches the “Egyptian leader” in an attempt to save Binyamin. The first Aliya ends with the emotion-filled Yehuda’s description of the feelings between Yaakov and Binyamin – “V’nafsho k’shura v’nafsho”, and his soulis bound with his soul.
By extension, it can be said, that whenever one approaches a confrontational situation, it is best to think in terms of this concept of facing one’s adversary on equal footing. Thinking oneself inferior will often be a self- fulfilling disadvantage. One will tend not to fight with sufficient determination because of theexpectation of imminent defeat. Feeling superior to one’s adversary will often lead to over-confidence. Remember not to under-estimate your enemy… or yourself.
The Torah notes on the opening words of the sedra parallel the story: KADMA V’AZLA R’VI’I. The 4th (son) went forward (in confrontation with Yosef) – attributed to the GR”A[SDT] The Alshich asks the following question: At the end of Parshat Miketz, Yehuda is completely resolved to his (and his brother’s) fate. The Egyptian viceroy has accused them of stealing his special chalice. Yehuda offers that the one in whose possession the cup is found shall be turned over to be killed and that the others would submit to slavery. When the cup is found (as it was purposely planted) in Binyamin’s possession, Yehuda meekly submits. Yosef (as yet unrevealed to his brothers) nobly refuses Yehuda’s offer of such drastic punishment and announces that he will take only the “culprit” as a slave – the rest of the brothersare free to return in peace to their father. That is the “cliff-hanger” ending of Miketz.
At the beginning of Vayigash, Yehuda changes from the lamb awaiting slaughter, into the lion which became the hallmark of his tribe, risking his life in his confrontation with the enigmatic Egyptian leader. What caused the change in Yehuda’s demeanor?
As long as Yehuda expected all the brothers to be enslaved, he viewed the events as G-d’s punishment for the sale of Yosef. This he was prepared to accept. When it turned out that only Binyamin would be enslaved – the only one not to have been involved in Mechirat Yosef, Yehuda realized that this was not punishment for what they had done. Now his protective instincts and his promise and guarantee to Yaakov take over. Yehuda boldly faces this Egyptian ruler and he is prepared to risk all to save Binyamin.[SDT] Yosef heard his father referred to as “your servant – my father” ten times (5 from Yehuda and another 5 from the interpreter) and he did not object and/or reveal his identity t prevent the humiliation to his father. For this, commentators say, Yosef lost 10 years of life and died at 110. [SDT] Chassidic masters see a “layer of messages” for us beneath the wording of Yehuda’s plea. “…and (if) he leaves his father, he will die.” If a person abandons his Father (G-d), forsakes the Torah, and becomes wicked, then he is considered dead.
Second Aliya – 11 p’sukim (44:31-45:7)
Yehuda tells Yosef that Yaakov is likely to die if the brothers return without Binyamin. He adds that he has personally guaranteed Binyamin’s return and “how can I return to my father without the lad…” (Remember that Yehuda had previously returned to his father without the other lad – Yosef. The current situation with Binyamin is Yehuda’s repentance for what he had previously done to Yosef.) Yosef cannot contain himself any longer and orders the room cleared of all “outsiders”. He bursts with emotion and announces to his dumb-struck brothers that he is Yosef. Immediately, Yosef asks, “Is my father still alive?” Yosef repeats his shocking revelation and gives details so the brothers will believe what they are hearing. He then admonishes them not to be angry with each other, since it was G-d’s plan that should be properly positioned to save his family from the famine.
The sale of Yosef was a monstrous sin. We were slaves to Par’o because of it.[SDT] When Yosef finally reveals himself to his brothers, he makes the following compound statement: “I am Yosef – Is my father still alive?” Many commentaries ask why Yosef would ask that question at this dramatic moment – especially since he has been hearing about Yaakov from the brothers all along. Some see in it a short but powerful reproach to the brothers, as if to say, “is it possible that my father can still be alive after what you’ve put him through?” If this is indeed the meaning of his question, then Yosef too must bear some of the burden and shame, since he also caused Yaakov suffering by not having communicated with him thathe was alive during his years as prime minister in Egypt. (Although there are various reasons given in the sources as to why Yosef did not inform Yaakov of his well-being, it is difficult not to throw some criticism in Yosef’s direction.)
Another interpretation suggests that Yosef might have assumed that his brothers had been lying to him about their father. They might have told him that Yaakov was alive to elicit sympathy, but he might have been dead. Therefore, now that he has told his brothers who he really is, Yosef asks the most important question on his mind – Is my father really still alive?[SDT] “For how can I go up to my father, and the youth is not with me?” The straight forward meaning: Yehuda says, how can I face my father Yaakov without Binyamin with me. Chassidic school of thought sees another message- meaning to Yehuda’s statement: How can we go up to face G-d (after 120 years) without our youth? Does our behavior when we are/were young serve us well or embarrass us as we get older? It is easy to dismiss one’s youth with a wave and a “you know how kids are”, but it isn’t that simple.
3rd Aliya – 20 p’sukim (45:8-27)
Yosef again tells the brothers that it wasn’t they who sent him to Egypt, but rather it was G-d. He then sends them to bring their father down to Egypt (to Goshen) where the family will be well cared for during the remaining years of the famine. The brothers embrace and cry. Only then are the brothers able to talk to Yosef.
Comment… The fact that G-d has His plans and sometimes we unwittingly (to us) “play into His hands” does not remove the responsibility from ourselves for our actions. The brothers sold Yosef into slavery rather than kill him. Their motives were not pure.
There are commentators who try to explain that they thought they were justified in judging Yosef as they did. If doesn’t wash their hands clean. Neither does the fact that G-d intended to have the family end up in Egypt. There is a Midrash P’li’ah, simple but eloquent, that says — G-d said to the people of Israel, you sold Yosef into slavery; I swear by your lives that you will say every year, AVADIM HAYINU L’FAR’O B’MITZRAYIM. Let’s go back a generation. Yaakov deceived Yitzchak and received the bracha, let’s say, that he was supposed to receive. Yet Yaakov is judged for what he did and punished with the terrible events of the sale of Yosef.
Even if Yaakov was commanded by his mother, and even if she was guided by Ru’ach HaKodesh, it doesn’t excuse Yaakov for what he did (or was done) to his father.
Meanwhile, Par’o becomes aware of the reunion and offers his generous hospitality to the family.
Yosef gives his brothers clothing, but gives Binyamin even more.
Notice that once again a son of Rachel is being favored by being given a special garment. The first time, the results were disastrous for Yosef and his brothers. Why would Yosef even consider doing this?
When a child misuses a book, we don’t forbid him to ever touch a book again. The opposite is so: teach the child how to properly treat books, and as soon as possible give him another. In this way, you will see if the lesson was learned. So too, the “solution” to the problem among the brothers is not reached by avoiding the difficult situations. If there is true repentance, then the brothers are to be given the exact circumstances to show their change of heart. Seeing things in a proper perspective, the extra gifts to Binyamin do not evoke the jealousy of the brothers; they have repented.
This same idea can be seen in next week’s sedra, Vay’chi. Yaakov favors Ephraim over Menashe when blessing them. Yosef gets very nervous about it. But again we can say that the idea is not to avoid anything that would make one brother jealous, the other arrogant. Menashe & Ephraim showed praiseworthy characteristics inthe way they handled their different statuses. This is one of the reasons that we bless our sons “may G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe…”
Yosef sends his brothers back to Yaakov with wagons (which is a personal coded message between son & father based on the topic they were studying at the time of the Sale of Yosef) and gifts. The brothers tell Yaakov all that has happened. He refuses to believe that Yosef is really alive, until he sees the wagons. Yaakov’s spirit is revived.
4th Aliya – 8 p’sukim (45:28-46:7)
Yaakov tells his sons to hurry with their preparations so that he can get to see Yosef before he dies. On the way to Egypt, they stop at Be’er Sheva where Yaakov offers sacrifices to G-d.
G-d appears to him and assures him that He will protect him and accompany him on his sojourn. The family continues its trip and arrives in Goshen.
Rashi also points out that G-d promised that Yaakov would be brought back to E. Yisrael for burial. The promise of becoming a great nation was not enough to calm Yaakov. The pasuk says that Yaakov took all his possession that he amassed in Eretz Yisrael. Rashi explains that the wealth he amassed on Padan Aram he gave to Eisav in exchange for Eisav’s claim to be buried in Me’arot HaMachpeila. Wealth from Chutz LaAretz was insignificant to Yaakov; what he valued was the Land of Israel.
5th Aliya – 20 p’sukim (46:8-27)
The Torah now lists the names of the “70 souls” (including Yosef and his sons) who went down to Egypt with Yaakov. (The seed is planted; the harvest many years hence will be the Nation of Israel.)
Note that it is Rachel only who is identified as Yaakov’s wife, indicating her unique status in his household. Also note the atypical mention of female offspring – Dina and Serach the daughter of Asher. Tradition attributes to her great longevity – she was the oldest person to leave Egypt, giving her the unique status as an eyewitness to the entire Egyptian experience.
Notice the label of B’CHOR (firstborn) for Reuven, here and in other places in the Torah. Although Levi, Yehuda, and Yosef each ended up with a “feature” that we would identify with the true firstborn, these roles being taken away from Reuven because of his shortcomings, he nonetheless is repeatedly identified as Yaakov’s B’CHOR.
Note the inclusion of Chetzron and Chamul, sons of Peretz, grandsons of Yehuda, great- grandchildren of Yaakov (and two grandsons of Asher, as well) in the list of his children and grandchildren. The term “grandchildren” is inclusive of further descendants.
The Seventy Souls…
and his sons
Chanoch (2), Palu (3), Chetzron (4), Carmi (5)
and his sons
Y’mu’el (7), Yamin (8), Ohad (9), Yachin (10), Tzochar
(11), Shaul (12) (Rashi says that Shaul was the Dina’s
child, raised by Shimon as his own)
and his sons
Gershon (14), K’hat (15), M’rari (16)
and his sons Eir and Onan (both of whom who died in
Canaan), Sheila (18), Peretz (19), Zerach (20), and
Peretz’s sons Chetzron (21), Chamul (22)
and his sons
Tola (24), Puva (25), Yov (26), Shimron (27)
and his sons
Sered (29), Eilon (30), Yachl’eil (31)
These are Leah’s children plus Dina (32).
The Torah says the total from Leah is 33. Rashi says that the 33rd of Leah’s “children” is Yocheved, daughter of Levi, who was born as they entered Egypt. That’s 33 souls from Leah.
and his sons
Tzifyon (35), Chaggi (36), Shuni (37), Etzbon (38),
Eiri (39), Arodi (40), Areili (41)
(42) and his children
Yimna (43), Yishva (44), Yishvi (45), B’ri’a (46),
their sister Serach (47), and the sons of B’ri’a,
Chever (48), Malki’el (49)
The souls from Zilpa are 16.
Yosef (50) and Binyamin (51)
Yo sef’s sons who were born in Egypt (they are
nonetheless included in the Seventy Souls) from Osnat –
Menashe (52), Ephraim (53)
Binyamin’s sons Bella (54), Becher (55), Ashbel (56),
Geira (57), Naaman (58), Eichi (59), Rosh (60), Mupim
(61), Chupim (62), Ard (63)
Souls descendant from Rachel are 14.
and his son(s)
and his sons
Yachtz’eil (67), Guni (68), Yeitzer (69), Shileim (70)
Those descendant from Bilha are 7.
The Torah’s totals are 66 who went down to Egypt (actually 67 counting Yocheved) and Yosef and his sons who were already in Egypt, bring the total – not counting daughters-in-law – to 70.
Remember that the “whole world” that came from No’ach was 70. We now find the same number in Yaakov’s descendants. Their 70 became the Nations of the World. Our 70 became the Jewish People. Think about it. Suggestion: Count Yaakov among the 70 souls and not Yocheved? Total is still 70 with all the names actually mentioned in the text.
6th Aliya – 17 p’sukim (46:28-47:10)
Yaakov sends Yehuda ahead, to complete preparations. Yosef sends a royal chariot for his father. When Yaakov and Yosef meet, Yosef embraces Yaakov and he cries. Yosef then prepares (some of) his brothers to meet Par’o. It is a sensitive issue because Yaakov and family are shepherds (sheep being the deity of Egypt). Yosef presentshis father and five of his brothers to Par’o. Par’o again offers the best of the land to Yosef’s family. Par’o asks Yaakov how old he is. Yaakov replies that he has lived 130 bitter years and that he does not expect to live as long as his father or grandfather. Par’o blesses Yaakov and Yaakov takes his leave. Par’o offers Yosef from the best of the land to settle his family.
B’MEITAV HA’ARETZ. Numeric value of that phrase is 359, same as GOSHEN. Baal HaTurim
7th Aliya – 17 p’sukim (47:11-27)
Yosef sets up his family with the best the land has to offer. Meanwhile, the famine intensifies in Egypt. Yosef carefully controls the food supplies and before long has amassed for Par’o all the wealth, possessions and land (except for that of the clergy) of the people. Finally, the peoples of Egypt become slaves to Par’o in exchange for sustenance. Yaakov’s family flourishes greatly. The final 3 p’sukim are reread for the Maftir.
14 p’sukim – Yechezkel 37:15-28
The antagonism in the beginning of Parshat Vayigash between Yehuda and Yosef is the forerunner of the split of the Jewish People into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel (represented by Ephraim, Yosef’s son). In this portion from the Prophets, G-d tells Yechezkeil to take two sticks – one marked for Yehuda and one for Ephraim-and hold them together until they merge. When the people ask the meaning of this, the prophet is to tell them about the reunification of the tribes. This reconciliation, which is also the theme of the sedra, will produce the One Nation that will once again be the “dwelling place” of G-d. We will know that, as will the nations of the world. As happy as is the reconciliation of the brothers, the haftara reminds us of rough times to come.