Points to Ponder

Vayigash 5777

And it will be when he sees that the child is not there and he will die (44:31) – Usually V’Haya implies a language of contentment. What contentment is there in death? Rav Chaim Kanievski Shlita suggested that there is a certain aspect of the certainty and finality of death that allows a closure that Yehuda and the brothers saw torturing Yaakov for the previous 22 years. That finality earned the word V’Haya.

And now do not be sad that you sold me here (45:5) – Why does Yosef give the brothers a free pass? Sforno explains that in Dinei Adam you are exempt but you are liable in Dinei Shomayim. Why would that be a Nechama? Is Yosef offering a useless consolation? Rav Kalman Ber  Shlita (Chief Rabbi of Netanya and previously Ram at Kerem B’Yavne) quoted the Ramchal who explains that in running the world on a grand scale, Hashem has plans that have to happen and it is a small insignificant part that the brothers play in making it so. Rav Kalman added that the entirety of this episode is a microcosm of the future – as Yaakov saw Geula in the Agalos – may we see it Baagala U’B’Zman Kariv.

And this is what you are commanded to do – Take wagons from the land of Egypt (45:19) – Pharaoh seems to be quite generous here. It does not match the stinginess and evil of his ways. Why? Rav Gamliel Rabinovich Shlita pointed out that if you follow the rest of the development of Pharaoh’s plans, he had ulterior, personal motives in bringing the brothers down. He was interested in seeing how indebted to him they could be and how that sense could be used to enrich his personal goals. Rav Rabinovich added that this is one of the terrible Middos of our generation – when even the Bnei Torah ask “What is in it for me?”  We are supposed to do things because they are right and L’Shem Shomayim – not because there is something in it for us personally.

And to his father he sent the best of Egypt (45:23)- The Gemara (Megillah 16b) notes that Yosef sent old wine that calms the elderly. What was the point of the gift? Did Yosef think that Yaakov needed old wine? Rav Yehuda Tzedaka ztl. explained that to the rest of the world, when people get old, they become more useless. The Jew learns that wisdom grows with age. Our leaders ripen as they age. Lest Yaakov be fearful that Yosef had so assimilated that he would disrespect Yaakov, Yosef sent him old wine that revives the elderly for it reminds them that some things improve with age.

And Yaakov sent Yehuda first (46:28) Rashi notes that Yaakov sent Yehuda to establish a Yeshiva from within which there would be Horaah. Rav Gershon Edelstein Shlita asked what the point of the learning was. After all, prior to Matan Torah there was no Chiyuv to learn? Rav Edelstein Shlita answered that in fact there might not be a specific chiyuv but there is an obligation to lead a focused life. We find that in Yeshivas Shem V’Eiver, with the Avos, with Yosef in refidim etc. the Torah Jew lets his life revolve around Torah. Every episode in life is seen through a lens of Torah and that gives a life and spirit to the existence. Yaakov wanted to be sure that this would not change when the family and nation would be in Mitzrayim and thus he sent Yehuda first.

How old are you? (47:8) – What kind of question is that to ask a person? Rav Zilberstein Shlita notes that Pharaoh had constructed a door into his chambers that was small – so that anyone entering it would have to bend in front of him as they entered his presence. When Avraham went to Pharaoh to take Sarah back, the doorway expanded and Avraham did not have to bend. The story was legendary. Thus, when Pharaoh saw it happen with Yaakov, he thought that he was Avraham. He was blown away and asked him how old was he.

Yosef amassed all of the money in the land of Mitzrayim and Canaan (47:14) – amassing wealth seems antithetical to Torah values. Why does the Torah want us to know what Yosef amassed? Rav Schachter Shlita notes that the Chazon Ish (Y.D. 72:2) disagreed. He explained that money is never a goal in life but rather a means to a greater goal – keeping the Mitzvos. The Midrash (Koheles Rabbah 5:8) distinguishes between two types of observant Jews: one who merely observes the mitzvos, and one who loves mitzvos. The one who observes, but does not love, mitzvos will be satisfied with keeping the mitzvos which come his way. But the one who loves mitzvos will always be on the lookout for additional miztvos. He will never be satisfied with the miztvos that he may have fulfilled already - "ohev mitzvos lo yisba mitzvos". Rather than love money, or love food, we should all develop a love for mitzvos.

Haftorah – And my servant Dovid will be the leader on them forever (Yechezkel 37: 25) – The Lubavitcher Rebbe ztl. explained that the entire Haftorah’s stress on oneness helps one appreciate the need of every personality to bend for the purpose of the glory of Hashem which can be found throughout the world. Yehuda, who bends in order to recognize Hashem (Yehuda Hoda V’Lo Bosh) becomes the principle leader in the way we function both in this world and into the days of Moshiach when it will not be the individual who will be significant for his own ego but rather the fact that we work together to serve Hashem which will serve as the ultimate leadership in the future.