Points to Ponder – VaYigash 5774

And Yehudah came close to him (44:18) – The ensuing debate between Yosef and Yehuda highlights a major difference between two approaches to Avodas Hashem. Rav Shimshon Dovid Pinkus ztl. notes that Yosef represents the individual Jew who, when in struggle with the outside world comes up big – as a Tzaddik Yesod Olam who sustains the entire world. A Tzaddik is a title that one earns when s/he faces outside challenges and passes them. Yehudah represents the Jew. One does not pass tests to earn the title Yehudi. One IS a Yehudi based on internal commitments and Kedusha that are inborn. Rav Pinchas Teitz ztl. (whose Yartzeit is Shabbos by the way), noted that while Yosef is an individual – it takes family to build a nation. Hence when establishing the Yeshiva in Goshen, it was Yehudah who had to go and make it so. By making a place independent of outside influence, the Yeshiva would be the incubator of tomorrow’s Jewish nation.

I am Yosef, is my father still alive – and the brothers couldn’t answer him since they were stunned by his face (45:3) – There is a famous Midrash which quotes Abba Hakohein Bardala who said woe on to us for the day of judgment, woe onto us for the day of rebuke.  Rav Chaim Dov Keller Shlita once asked what the Tochacha of Yosef was. He explained that the concept of Tochacha is not about yelling at someone that s/he is wrong. Rather Tochacha means that you demonstrate that what the other person thought and did in earnest was actually errant. By stating Ani Yosef to the brothers who had thought this whole time that they were correct in judging Yosef unfavorably, Yosef showed them that everything they thought about him and his dreams was wrong. In the future Hashem will show us the same thing. All that we thought at this time was important in life was actually not really that big a deal.

And he saw the wagons (45:27) – Rashi notes that Yosef was reminding Yaakov of the last section of Torah that they had studied together just before Yosef’s disappearance – that of Egla Arufa. What is the significance of that PARTICULAR mitzvah that made Yosef want to highlight it for Yaakov? Rabbi Lamm once noted that Egla Arufa is a reminder of the value of a single life within the rules of the greater Jewish community. Yaakov worried that Yosef, in his role of viceroy might have forgotten what a single human being is. When he saw Yosef’s wagons, he knew that Yosef had not forgotten.

All of the souls were 66 and the children of Yosef made 70 (46:27) – After counting all of the 70, the Torah returns to highlight that 66 actually went down to Mitzrayim with Yaakov and together with Yosef’s family made 70. Why are Yosef’s children included in the count and then excluded only to be included again? Rabbi Bernard Weinberger (Shemen HaTov)  points out that the only thing that allowed the other 66 to come down to Mitzrayim was that Yosef and his family managed to be there first and to be Torah-true Jews there.

And Yaakov sent Yehuda ahead to Goshen (46:28) – Why did Yaakov select Yehudah? Rashi tells us it was so that Yehuda could set up a Beis HaMedrash. However, wasn’t it Levi’s job to be Rosh Yeshiva? If so, it should be Levi, not Yehuda setting up the Yeshiva? Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah ztl. explains that Yehuda was the first Arev -Guarantor in the Torah. Yaakov wanted the Yeshiva to be established on the principles of responsibility for one another (Areivim Zeh LaZeh) and so he sent Yehuda who best represented the ideal of responsibility which would keep the people together even in the most trying times.

And Yosef set up the chariot and went to greet Yaakov his father and he appeared before him (46:29) -Rashi adds that it was Yosef who appeared before Yaakov. What exactly is Rashi’s addition? Rav Eliyahu Schlesinger Shlita explains that Yosef had two purposes in greeting his father: The first was the child who wanted to see his father after 22 years of separation. The second was the desire to have his father, who had been deprived of seeing the son he loved for the same time, see him. Rav Schlesinger explains that Rashi wants us to know that it was the second motivation that was primary to Yosef. Despite the self-motivation to rush to see his father, Yosef understood that it was even more important to BE SEEN than just to go for his own needs. 

And Yosef purchased all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh (47:21) – Why does the Torah spend so much time on the purchase of the land of Egypt? Ramban notes that the Torah was highlighting that although Yosef was incredibly powerful, he was an honest worker and turned his labor in for the boss – Pharaoh. According to this idea it is a response to the oft used anti-Semitic slur about the dishonest Jew. Rav Menachem Genack Shlita suggested that there might be an additional reason as well. Yosef was identified as the reason the Shibbud happened. How this was so, is a bit indirect in the Torah. However when one realizes that it was Yosef who changed the political, religious and economic landscape of Egyptian politics so that it would only base itself on one man – Pharaoh, it became easier to enslave the Jews on his say so. The Torah expands its thinking here in order to demonstrate how the Shibbud began.

 Haftorah: Now son of man, take a stick and write Yehuda and friends and another and write Yosef and friends and place them together in your hands (Yechezkel 37:15-28). – Why is this an ideal Nevuah? It sounds as if putting two sticks together will create Achdus? Rav Baruch Simon Shlita once noted that Achdus is not a concept that is created by speeches. It is created when one really feels the needs of the Tzibbur as one. Nowhere is this actualized more than when the people put themselves together by working together B’Yadayim.