Points to Ponder

Vayigash 5776

And Yehuda sprung forward (44:18) – The Baal Haturim explains that he leaped forward in battle stance. Rashi too, adds that his words were supposed to be interpreted as strong. But the Alshich, Ohr HaChaim and Nachalas Yaakov all ask how Yehuda could have leaped so strongly when it was his words that were being followed. Then, when upping the ante to mention that all the brothers would be slaves, Yosef politely answers that he would only take the one who kept the cup. Where was Yehuda’s gratitude? The Otzros Hatorah explains that until the point that Yosef only wanted Binyamin, the brothers believed that everything that befell them was direct retribution for having sold Yosef. Only when the one brother not involved at all was destined to be punished – only then, did the brothers, led by Yehuda, realize that the Cheshbon was not for their selling of Yosef. That being the case, Yehuda sprung forward to act.

And Yosef could not hold back (45:1) – Rav Yisrael of Modzitz ztl. would often explain that every Jew has a power to affect the masses. This is one of the great powers that a Jew can use to fight the Yetzer HaRa. Thus, he explains, wheb Yosef said “Lo Yachol – I cannot continue” he was reminded “Yosef l’Hisapek – he should continue to hang in there”. Rav Shmuel Brazil Shlita adds that this is evident even within the Peshat: For at that moment, Yosef’s brothers were debating destroying the entire land of Egypt. Still, he held back long enough to remove all extra people in the room – so as not to embarrass the brothers. When naturally, one cannot hold back any long, there is a superhuman strength that comes from doing the right thing. Giving in to one’s impulses is not a Jewish trait – Reishis Goyim Amalek is Rega.

I am Yosef, is my father still alive (45:3) – The Midrash quotes the famous statement of Abba Kohein Bardala who notes that if Yosef’s brother’s could not stand before him, what will we say on the day of great judgement? The Beis HaLevi adds that Yosef’s Tochacha was especially strong because he took their words and he focused it onto their actions to demonstrate the inconsistency. The result was more powerful than the most inspiring of Mussar Schmoozin.  It is similar to the Yalkut Shimoni (Netzavim 940)’s comment about Eliyahu and the fisherman who was shown that if he could learn the art of fishing and its intricacies, he could study Torah too. Rav Noach Weinberg ztl. added that we tend to rationalize to get ourselves out of uncomfortable conditions and situations. But our job is not to be complacent and to choose to struggle with the challenge of the human condition – and honestly note who and how we are what we are.

And he saw the wagons that Yosef sent for him and the spirit of Yaakov was revived (45:27) – Rashi notes that when Yaakov saw the wagons he recalled that the last section that he and Yosef had studied was that of Egla Arufa. Daas Zekanim adds that they had debated whether Yaakov should have accompanied Yosef on his road to go visit the brothers – Yosef thought it was improper while Yaakov taught him that it was imperative. Daas Zekanim notes that Egla Arufa highlights the critical responsibility that people have in escorting guests which is the impetus for the Zekanim’s need to wash their hands of the murder that had been committed (See Sotah 45b). Rav Yehuda Amital Ztl. added that today’s motor travel has made Leviya almost obsolete but the message – that the traveller is not alone, is a message that remains a strong responsibility even today. No matter where a Jew goes, s/he has a responsibility not to be left out all alone.

And he offered Korbanos to the God of his father Yitzchak (46:1) – Rashi comments that Avraham is not mentioned for this teaches us that one needs to be careful with the of his father more than his grandfather. For although one needs to honor his grandfather, he needs to honor his father more. But why do we not apply the principle of She’Hu V’Aviv Chayavin B’chvod Avi Aviv – that both he and his father must respect the grandfather and thus the grandfather’s respect should take precendence? Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita is reported to have commented that the whole reason he must respect his grandfather is through his father’s obligation vand even according to the Sefer Chareidim who argues that it is because of Bnei Banim Harei Heim K’Banim, it is still only because of the Banim that the grandchildren are obligated to respect the grandparents and therefore the respect to the middle generation takes precendence. Rav Nebenzahl Shlita adds that based on this, there is no Chiyuv of respect for a grandparent – as a grandparent – once the linked parent has passed. (See Sdei Chemed for the total analysis of this idea)

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 Horaah. Why was it necessary to set up the Beis Horaah first? Rav Schachter Shlita noted that when the Klal establishes itself in a new place, the Chachamim of the generation need to review Kol Hatorah Kulah and inspect its application in the new times. That is, not that Chalilah Torah changes but that the stress on certain areas might need to be reevaluated due to the new circumstances which might require new ways of handling the current challenges within the accepted practice of the Torah. Rav Pinchas Teitz ztl. noted that he felt that this was one of the great challenges facing the European Jews who came over from Shtetl life in Europe to the openness of America. If the Rabbonim are not ready to engage  the challenges, then they will lose Neshamos as they try to play catch up.

And Yisrael settled in the land of Goshen and they took a hold there and were quite fruitful and multiplied a lot (47:27) – Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev ztl. notes that when a Tzaddik lives in an environment that can harm him, he must utilize the temptations and dedicate those to Avodas Hashem. If Egypt was the land of Ahava Raah – of lust then a Jew needs to turn that energy to Ahavas Hashem – for trying to not think of something guarantees that you will think about it. Bnei Yisrael held onto the land of Egypt – meaning that they did not try to push away the bad thoughts of Egyptian lifestyle but chose to utilize it in order to thrive for Hashem.


Haftorah:  And Dovid my servant will reign over them (Yechezkel  37:) – If the whole goal of the uniting of the people in the Haftorah is to create a fusion, why not establish a reign of rotation between Malechei Yisrael and Malchei Yehuda in the future? Rav Gideon Weitzman Shlita noted that the future will not be a function of democracy in the running of Am Yisrael. The fusion will need to come first – in the time of Mashiach Ben Yosef when the physical leader will redeem the people from the physical famine in the land. After that, Mashiach ben David will bring about the spiritual redemption. This is consistent with the will of Hashem that Hayisa Yehuda L’Kodsho.