Weekly Reading Insights: VaYigash 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Vayigash

To be read on 9 Tevet 5764 (Jan.3 )

Vayigash is the 11th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 11th overall, and 34th out of 54 in overall length.
Torah Reading: Gen. 44:18-47:27;  Haftorah: Ezekiel 37:15-28 (a prophecy of the ultimate resolution of the division between "Yehuda" and "Yosef")
Pirkei Avot: not till after Passover

Vayigash opens with Yehuda begging Yosef (who had yet to reveal his true identity) to allow Benyamin to return home to Yaacov, and to keep Yehuda, 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 journeyed to Egypt to meet 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 parsha concludes describing 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.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:10-64/Miketz )

Come and see. "And Judah approached him [Joseph] and said..." (Gen. 44:18). This is the approach of one world with another to unify each with the other and become one, because Judah is a King and Joseph is a King, they drew closer, one to the other and united one with the other

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:9-64/VaYeshev )

In the idiom of our sages, peace is termed the ultimate vessel for containing blessing. This is clear because acrimony will cause any blessings - whether of health, prosperity, or fulfillment - to be squandered.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:11-64/Vayigash )

After that period of refinement, Israel would ascend from Egypt spiritually, having witnessed G-d's miracles and judgments on the Egyptians. They would see the guardian angel of Egypt humbled, as in described in "G-d executed judgments upon their gods." (Num. 33:4)

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"For in order to preserve life has G-d sent me before you...to prepare for you a posterity on the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." (45:5,7)
The darkness of the exile makes it hard to perceive G-dliness, or to arouse the natural, innate love for G-d that is the birthright of every Jew. But G-d has mercy on His people Israel, and in every generation sends us one tzadik (righteous person) like Joseph, whose function is to diffuse light to each individual soul and enable it to contemplate G-d's greatness.
(Torat Chaim)

"I will also surely bring you up again" (literally, "I will bring you up and also up"). (46:4)
The Torah's repetition of the word "up" is an allusion to the two spiritual ascensions of the Jewish people. The first occurred with the Exodus from Egypt; the second will take place with Moshiach and the Final Redemption.
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5709)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:11-64/Vayigash )

We are now after Chanukah when each of us has been invested with new strength to be innovative in our Jewish observance. The warmth of Chanukah is needed especially now, during the month of Tevet, the coldest of the months. This is why this week's Reading begins with the words "And Judah approached" (Gen. 44:18). He did not wait to be called. He took the initiative to do something. Similarly, each of us has to get out there and use some of the new potential we have acquired.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch interprets Judah's approaching Joseph that it describes the merging of two essentially different ways of serving G-d. "Judah", in Hebrew "Yehuda", comes from the Hebrew word "hodaah", meaning praise and nullification, referring to the quality of a person who "serves G-d with his body" - not by partying, but by making his body and physical needs submit to G-d's Will by focusing on the observance of the commandments. This person takes the mundane and material parts of the world and makes them divine by raising them up to holiness.

On the other hand, "Joseph", in Hebrew "Yosef", means "adding" and represents a different manner of serving
G-d - that of "serving G-d with his soul". This Jew cleaves and unites to G-dliness by immersing himself more and more in Torah study, binding to G-d. Through his efforts he traps the highest spiritual energies and brings them down into the physical plane.

When Judah approached Joseph, the aspect of "Judah" was elevated to the level of "Joseph". Thus, what had been elevated through transforming the mundane to the holy, was then processed a second time, causing these same elements to descend and reveal their spiritual light in the world. It is written in Midrash Rabba, "there is no 'approaching' except for peace". This means that one who works elevating the material is essentially at war with physicality, whereas the one whose service is more learning-centered can not help but be transformed to a higher spiritual level. Therefore the learning-centered person has a more peaceful and calmer path through which to connect to G-d. So too, when the aspects of Judah and Joseph came together, it was to enable all methods of service of G-d to be in a peaceful manner, not requiring difficult conflicts and trials presented by the physical world. This combination of efforts is the ultimate service of every Jew. Each person has to work to see both aspects expressed in his life.

On those words "And Judah approached him" the commentaries ask, "To whom is the word 'him' referring?" The Mei Hashiloach says that Judah penetrated the depths of Joseph's heart in order to convince him to release his brother Benjamin. The Kotsker Rebbe says that the 'him' refers to himself, i.e. Judah examined his own heart; he repeated what he had already said earlier to drive the words deep into himself in order to fulfill the ancient Jewish teaching that "what comes from the heart, enters the heart". He wanted his words to be so true and powerfully charged they would be understood and accepted by Joseph. So too each of us have our moments when we seek to communicate and influence others. The key element is a true belief in what we are saying. This can only be accomplished by being honest with ourselves.

Later in the portion we find that Jacob blesses Pharaoh. The Shem Shmuel asks why Jacob blessed Pharaoh (see Gen. 47:7). He answers by saying that when Pharaoh received from Jacob, i.e. became a vessel for Jacob's blessings, spiritually he was restrained from dominating Jacob. This explains why Pharaoh did not start making trouble for Jacob's descendants until after Jacob died. This is another reminder that this week is a good time to be proactive.

Long winter nights are meant to be set aside for Torah study. Rabbi Joseph Yitzchok of Lubavitch discusses the qualitative difference between the laws of the Torah whose purpose is to show us how to act properly and the inner dimensions of the Torah, whose purpose is to teach us to know G-d. Even though the inner dimension helps connect us to G-d, still we are limited because we can never really know what G-d is, only that He exists. The advantage of the laws of Torah when seen in the abstract, is that we know their essential nature, we can understand them in their entirety, not only how and what we are to do, but also why we should do it.
I would like to close by bringing one Jewish law to encourage everyone, including myself, to learn more Jewish Law (halacha):

Two details were explained about Shabbat by the prophets: The honor of Shabbat and the pleasure of Shabbat. They are derived from the verse "And you called Shabbat a pleasure to sanctify the honorable G-d". (Isaiah 58:13). How do we honor and take pleasure in Shabbat? The Rabbis wrote that we honor Shabbat with clean clothing and clean table coverings and we make it a pleasure by the enjoyment of eating and drinking. Many other laws have been extracted from these principles, such as bathing and lighting candles, all of which will be explained. - from "A summary of the laws of Shabbat", translated and published by Machon Ohaley Shem, chapter 242
Try teaching a law at the Shabbat table each week. You will be surprised at how much ground you will cover!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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