Parshat Parshat Vayigash Vol.11 No.14
Date of issue: 7 Tevet 5762 -- December 22, 2001
This week's issue has been sponsored by
Rabbi Joel Grossman in memory of his friend Mordechai Goldrich,Mordechai Ben Rifael Alav Hashalom, who died tragically last week when a fire broke out at his apartment in Monsey. He was an avid reader of Kol Torah and will be sorely missed.
Tehei Nishmato Tzirurah Bitzror Hachaim.
How to sponsor
Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Closer Than You Think
by Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Mankind is given the privilege of speaking to Hashem. When engaged in this act we are very
particular about the words we use. We do not make up phrases and names. Rather, we adhere to
descriptions by Chazal that have been handed down to us throughout the ages. Hashem is often
described as Our God, the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. This affirms that the God we
pray to is the identical one that was so intimately involved with the Patriarchs. We demonstrate
a link from the present all the way back to the origin of monotheism with Avraham.
In our Parsha we find Hashem being described in a somewhat limited fashion. After being given
evidence of his son's existence, Yaakov decides to go down to Egypt and see his son before he
passes away. Perek 46 begins by saying that Israel (Yaakov) came to Beer Sheba where he
slaughtered sacrifices to the God of his father Yitzchak. Why does this Pasuk omit any
reference to Avraham? Seforno addresses this issue by saying that after Esav sold the
birthright to Yaakov, there was a famine. Hashem appeared to Yitzchak and told him not to go
down to Egypt and that he will be the recipient of the Promised Land.
Yaakov understood Hashem's desire to keep Yitzchak out of Egypt. Yaakov was now about to go
there for personal reasons -to see his son! The acceptance of his sacrifice would show that he
was not violating that which his father stood for. Indeed, Hashem tells him in verse 3 that he
should not be afraid of going down to Egypt and that he and his people will eventually flourish.
It is for this reason that Hashem is described as the God of Yitzchak. Yaakov's actions were
about to impact directly upon his father's values not those of his grandfather. Rashi, in
addressing this issue, quotes Rav Yochanan's opinion in Bereishit Rabbah (94:5) who says that a
person owes more honor to his father than to his grandfather. What does Rashi have in mind by
applying this idea of honor to our Pasuk? Perhaps Rashi has Avraham's mandate in mind, just as
Seforno addresses the mandate of Yitzchak.
In chapter 15 Avraham asks how he will know that he is to inherit the Promised Land. Hashem
responds to this seeming lack of faith by saying that he will surely go to a land, be enslaved,
and then leave successfully. From Avraham's point of view he was supposed to go to Egypt.
However, Yitzchak was not the recipient of the same destiny. When Yaakov was about to go to
Egypt, his first duty was to view his action's impact on his father's honor. It would have been
a tribute to his grandfather, but since it might have compromised the honor of his father, this
issue had to be dealt with exclusively; hence the Pasuk de+scribes Hashem only as the God of
The common element between these commentaries is that they are focusing on the relationship
between parent and child. When we think of Hashem, do we think of an ancient deity who operated
most prominently in ancient times? Do we picture Hashem as the Almighty One speaking to Moses?
We certainly do! This notion is indispensable in prayer. However, regarding our actions, we
must realize that we are influenced mostly by those closest to us. Our parents, family,
friends, and society have great impact upon how we think and what we do. When we act positively
as a result of this impact we should recognize it. On the other hand, when we act negatively as
a result of this, we should be vigilant in pursuing and identifying the cause. We must realize
that Hashem is the God of our parents, family, and friends. Hence, we should surround ourselves
with people that show loyalty to Hashem's Divinity so that we can, as Yaakov did, take into
account what those around us stand for and never violate their connection and our connection
Yosef and his Brothers, Revealed
by Eli Winkler
In last week's Parsha, we read how Yosef accused his brothers of being spies, eventually
isolated Binyamin, and demanded him to remain as his slave. This week's Parsha begins with a
description of how Yehuda stood up for Binyamin. Yosef was so moved by Yehuda's pleas that he
revealed himself to his brothers. Surprisingly, the brothers did not respond or react at all:
Two questions come to mind. First, why did Yosef choose at this time reveal himself, and not
earlier or later? Second, why was there no reaction by the brothers? What were their thoughts?
We find many different approaches to the first question among the Meforshim. The Shem Mishmuel
suggests that Yosef was waiting for someone to stand up for Binyamin (the remaining child of his
mother Rachel), and would not reveal himself to his brothers until then. He wanted to see if
they had corrected their behavior. Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur suggests that, Yosef feared
that his brothers still hated him. After all, the same dreams that they hated 22 years earlier
had now come true. Yosef did not know what to expect. However, once Yehuda volunteered to be
Yosef's slave, he knew that they would not hate him, for it was Yehuda himself who made the
dreams come true. Perhaps the most interesting explanation suggests that Yosef was waiting for
his brothers to do Teshuva. When we trace the story, we see that the brothers performed all
three steps of Teshuva that the Rambam requires Charata, regret, Viddui, confession, and,
Kabbala Leatid, change for future actions. It was then that Yosef was able to reveal himself.
As to why the brothers were silent, Rabbi Hillel gives a wonderful insight: The brothers were
strong and forceful when they knew they were correct. However, when they realized that they had
been living a lie, they were not strong anymore, and were not able to speak. When Yosef said
the simple words, "Ani Yosef," the Chafetz Chaim suggests that all their questions were solved.
For with these words, they saw the reasons behind their suffering. In the same way, when Hashem
will eventually tell us "Ani Hashem," he will answer all of our questions, and we too will
understand all of our suffering.
The Message of the Agalot
by Ari Michael
In Perek 45, Pesukim 26 and 27, the Torah describes the way that the brothers convinced Yaakov
that Yosef was still alive. "And they told him that Yosef was alive and is the ruler of all of
Egypt and Yaakov's heart was faint and he refused to believe them. And they told him everything
Yosef had told them and they saw the wagons Yosef had sent and the Ruach Hakodesh rested upon
Yaakov, their father."
The simple interpretation of these Pesukim would indicate that Yaakov could not accept that
Yosef was alive after living so long without him. Apparently, Egyptian chariots were well known
and of superior quality, as we see in Beshalach, where it says "Kol Rechev Paroh," which were
clearly known to be of better quality. Therefore, when Yaakov saw the wagons Yosef sent to him,
he recognized their quality as Egyptian and knew that everything his sons had told him was true.
However, the message of the Agalot is not as clear as it would seem. There is a dual message
being sent by these wagons. Yosef is giving his father a message, a message of hope for their
seeing one another once again. However, Paroh is sending a different message. He is expressing
his respect and honor of Yaakov by sending his most prized possessions to facilitate this move.
Rashi explained the significance behind Yosef's sending of the Agalot. He says that they were
meant to remind Yaakov of the last thing they learned together, which was Egla Arufa. Rashi
derived this from the fact that in the Pesukim leading up to Yosef's sending of the chariots
everything is done or suggested by Paroh. However, it was Yosef who actually sent them, not
Paroh. This shows the dual 'sending' on the part of Yosef. He was sending both the chariots
with which Yaakov could be transported to Egypt and the spiritual chariots, or buoys, with his
reminder that he remembered the last thing they learned together, the Egla Arufa.
Rav Soloveitchik, Zichrono Tzadik Livracha, had a unique interpretation of the actions of
Paroh. He said that the reason that Paroh showed such great respect for Yaakov and his family
was because of his joy at discovering that Yosef was not merely a slave, but came from a family
with a great heritage. The reason for this joy emanated from his intrigue at the genius of
Yosef, for he was able to accurately interpret the dreams as well as provide a solution for the
problems they raised. Yosef created an unprecedented food-rationing program, in which he set up
functional collections and storage for the food, as well as an intricate method of distribution.
Paroh determined that if one brother was so smart, the others might be smart as well, and he was
therefore very eager to bring them down to Egypt.
In addition, the Rav explained why Paroh had so much respect for Yaakov. When the famine
started, based on modern occurrence, the other advisers probably did not want to give food, a
desperately needed resource, to other countries, but rather use it as leverage against them.
However, Paroh appreciated Yosef's kindness and his strong qualities of Yosher and Chessed. He
realized that these qualities were due to his upbringing, and was very excited to meet the
father, who had impressed the importance of these qualities so clearly to his son.
However, when Yaakov received the Agalot, it was unnecessary to say who sent them. What they
did manage to do was to inform Yaakov that Yosef was alive and that he remembered what they
learned. The Halacha of Egla Arufa is representative of a leader's responsibility to his
people. Chazal's description of Egla Arufa presents a pitiful picture. A visitor arrived in
town with nothing to eat and was turned away by everyone. Therefore, he went wandering and
while looking for food, dies. At this point, Bait Din is required to proclaim that they had
nothing to do with the death and bring a Korban. However, the reason for the proclamation is
very unclear. Who would suspect Bait Din of having killed this person? Rather, Bait Din is
declaring that they did not see the plight of a person in need.
By sending the Agalot, Yosef was telling his father that he had learned the lesson of Egla Arufa
and was a compassionate leader. At this realization, Yaakov was overjoyed and enveloped by
Ruach Hakodesh, "Vatechi Ruach Yaakov."
Live Your Years
by Yoni Shenkman
This weeks Parsha, Parshat Vayigash, begins in the middle of the episode in which Yosef
confronts his brothers. After holding his identity back as long as he could, Yosef finally
revealed his identity, and eventually asked that his father, Yaakov, be brought down to him in
When Yaakov finally came, Yosef took him to meet Paroh, setting up a confrontation between two
opposing powers. Yaakov was the spiritual leader in his generation, while Paroh ruled the
physical. Their conversation (47:8-10) seems strange at first glance, to say the least. The
only question Paroh asked Yaakov was (literally) "How many are the days of the years of your
life?" which is not only a strange question, but obviously worded strangely, too. The response
seems even more bizarre, when Yaakov answers that "the days of the years of my (physical) living
is 130 years, (but) the days of the years of my life are few and bad, and did not surpass those
of my fathers." What does all the obscure language mean? Why did Yaakov not answer Paroh's
question directly by just telling him how old he was? And who asked about Yaakov's forefathers?
Rav Hirsch helps us understand this problem by explaining that Paroh actually asked Yaakov how
many truly meaningful, spiritual days he had had in all the years of his lifetime. Yaakov
answered by first explaining to Paroh that although his physical years were 130, he did not look
at those physical numbers. Instead, his focus was on achieving the spiritual greatness of his
forefathers, and answered that he had not reached that goal. Physical numbers mean nothing
unless there is a spiritual purpose attached to it.
Although Yaakov did not reach his own personal goals, he is our forefather because he struggled
with the intent of reaching them. This is the lesson Yaakov taught Paroh, and this is the
lesson we must learn: we must not get caught up in our clothing designers, cars and bank
accounts, but must strive to be more spiritual, where the only thing that really 'counts' is
effort! We should all commit to doing at least one Mitzva a day (give charity, read a chapter
of a Jewish Book, learn one Jewish Law) in order to add to our spiritual bank account!
Halacha of the Week
Halacha stresses the importance of exercise and a healthy diet (for examples see Rambam Hilchot
Deot, chapter 4).
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