Weekly Reading Insights

Vayigash 5762

Overview of the Weekly Reading, Vayigash

Vayigash (Gen. 44:18-47:27) opens with Yehuda begging Yosef (who had yet to reveal his true identity) to allow Benyamin to return home to Yaacov, and to take Yehuda as a slave instead. At this point, Yosef could not restrain his emotions any longer and declared his identity. He sent his brothers to bring Yaacov and the rest of their families to live in Egypt. Yaacov moved to Egypt to unite with Yosef. On the way, G-d promised Yaacov that his offspring would become a great nation in Egypt.

The portion then lists the individuals who went to Egypt which totaled 70. Yosef went out to greet his father. Yosef then took Yaacov to meet Pharaoh who allowed the family to live in Goshen as it was good shepherding land. The concluding section describes how the people of Egypt used up their money buying food during the famine. Eventually they had to sell their cattle and livestock to buy food. When this too was expended, they even sold their land to Pharaoh. Yosef moved the people from on side of the country to the other, and required them to give 1/5 of their crops to Pharaoh. Only the Egyptian priests were provided with food at no cost and owned their land. Meanwhile, the Jewish nation grew.


(V:11-62/Vayigash )

"But now, do not be sad." (45:5)

A person must do whatever is necessary to avoid sadness and depression. This is the meaning of the verse, "My sin I will declare; I am worried about my transgression"--"worrying" about one's sins is harmful, and sinful in itself. Rabbi Mordechai Malkowitz used to say: The only worry a person is permitted to dwell upon is the worry that he is worried!

(Chassidic sources)

"And Benjamin wept upon his neck." (45:14)

"For the Tabernacle at Shiloh (in Joseph's portion of the land) that would one day be destroyed," comments Rashi. Why did Benjamin weep over the destruction of the Tabernacle, located in his brother's portion of Israel, and not over the destruction of the two Holy Temples, located in his own territory? Because the sorrow of others should be even more keenly felt than one's own suffering.

(Rabbi Yechezkel of Kozimir)

From Rabbi Shaul Leiter

(W:11-62/Vayigash )

Hastening the redemption by spreading Judaism is very important work for everyone, not just for Ascent. But what are the limits? How far can we go to interest a disenfranchised friend or a relative in our wonderful tradition?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe discusses this in connection with a point in our weekly portion, Vayigash. As the famine intensified, Yosef, the viceroy of Egypt, offered food on condition that the Egyptians circumcise themselves (Midrash B'reishit 90/6;91/5)-(also see Rashi, 41/55). The great Kabbalist of Safed, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, the holy Ari, said that by adding this element of holiness into the otherwise debased culture of Egypt, Yosef unintentionally strengthened their negative energy rather than weakened it, thereby making the Jewish exile in Egypt more difficult (Pri Etz Chaim, Shaar Chag Hamatzot ch. 6). Rabbi Emmanuel Schochet explains that since Holiness is the ultimate source of vitality in everything, the infusion of this sacred act enhanced the Egyptians' power. Even though his intentions were good, the result was negative.

Yosef's mistake was that he acted independently, without Divine instruction. The problem with independent decisions is that often we do not see all of the results, even if our intentions are the best. We find a similar event at the time of the exodus from Egypt. Moshe allowed masses of hangers-on to accompany the Jews (Ex. 32/7); ultimately they were the cause for the sin of the Golden Calf and many other tribulations.

We have to draw Jews to the Torah way of life, but only in ways prescribed by the Torah itself, or as we are taught by our teachers, without compromises and without accommodating Torah and its commandments to the moment. There are some people that argue that under the present circumstances, it is absurd to demand all of the details of religious observance. We risk throwing out the baby with the wash-water. Others say it is all right to change things to make them more palatable for the uninformed. We have to remind ourselves that even Yosef and Moshe caused negative results by acting independently; how much more do we have to be careful. In illustration of this: At a meeting of Rabbis, one participant said that to extinguish a fire you don't check how pure the water is! Even dirty water can be used. The Rebbe's father-in-law answered that compromises in Torah are not comparable to dirty water, but rather to kerosene which only makes the fire worse.

It is imperative to love every Jew. However, our job is to bring them to the Torah, not the Torah to them. The Torah does not require of us to worry more than G-d does. When we follow the Torah's instructions as we should, we truly merit to draw Jews to our tradition in a way of happiness and serenity.


Shabbat Shalom

Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION