Sunday, January 8, 2017

Parshas Vayigash 5777

Parshas Vayigash 5777:


Now, with Hashem’s Help, let us get on to the holy parsha:  The first verse is ‘Vayigash eilav Yehuda vayomer; bi adoni, yi’daber na avdicha davar bi’aznei adoni, vi’al yichar apicha bi’avdecha, ki chamocha ki’Pharoah/And Yehuda approached him and he said; please, my master, let your servant please speak a word in my master’s ears, and let the wrath of my master not flare up with your servant, because you are like Paroah:  


So, there is a beautiful comment on this verse from the current Biala Rebbe shlita:  He writes: “The concept taught by this is that when the Tzaddik of a generation goes to pray for the Jewish people, and to bring down the blessings of all goodness upon them, the first thing he does is to defend them on the account of failing to follow the proper path until now.  He shows Hashem the greatness of the fire of the evil urge that burns in a person's heart constantly to the point where it darkens the vision of a Jewish person's intelligence on such a level to where he cannot sense nor discern the difference between serving Hashem and the urges of the evil inclination, Hashem forbid. This defense that the Tzaddik defends us with before Hashem is "and do not be angry with Your servant", for it is not proper nor fair to be angry with us, Hashem forbid, because the evil urge has tricked us to the extent that "You are like Pharaoh", and we cannot discern between You and between the concept of the power of the evil urge, which is symbolized by Pharaoh.” (From Divrei Binah – Parshas Vayigash; page 255).  


The thing that the Yetzer Hara does which the Biala Rebbe shlita discussed is something we must always guard against.  He sometimes tries to make it look like Hashem is “the bad guy”, Chas V’Chalillah, but we must stand up to it, with Hashem’s help, and realize that it is just trying to trick us.  


But, anyway, there is another beautiful insight on this verse that I would like to share with you: The Sages say that ‘Vayigash/And he approached’ is a language of Davening.  What does this mean?  


So, the Noam Elimelech (Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l) explains that it teaches us that when we Daven to Hashem, we actually approach Him, so to speak.  This is indeed a special thing, and something to think about – especially the next time we Daven.[1]  


Okay, so now back to the parsha:  Yehuda recounted to Yosef HaTzaddik the things that had gone on between them and he said that if they would go up without Binyamin, since Yaakov Avinu and his Neshama’s were so intertwined, Yaakov would die. 


The Dubno Maggid (HaRav Yaakov Krantz zt”l) explains that what he feared would happen was that Yaakov Avinu would see them coming, and he wouldn’t see Binyamin with them, and he would die before they had a chance to explain what happened. But if they would have had time to explain that Binyamin was suspected of stealing, Yaakov would be upset, but understand, because he was a big Tzaddik, and stealing is a very serious thing, (though as we know, Binyamin didn’t actually steal the goblet).[2] 


Back to the parsha:  One of the things that Yehuda said when he was trying to convince Yosef HaTzaddik to take him instead of Binyamin was “For how can I go up to my father and the lad is not with me?”


Of course, Yehuda was talking about going up to Yaakov Avinu without Binyamin, but HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l (Chief Sephardi Rav of Yerushalayim from 1983 – 1993) teaches us that there is a big lesson in this for parents: “How can I go up to my father” – says Rav Eliyahu zt”l, this can refer to our Father in Heaven. “And the lad is not with me?” – this can refer to our kids, he says.  So this verse teaches parents – and teachers as well – ‘How can you go up to Hashem after you die if your children (or students) are not with you’ – meaning, not following the right path.  How can you come before Hashem if you did not educate your children or students properly?  It is your duty to teach them the proper way!  And if, Chas V’Shalom, you do not, they might not “be with you” – i.e. not stay on the right path, Chas V’Shalom.[3]  This is a very important message. 


Back to the parsha:  Now, Yosef HaTzaddik couldn’t contain himself, and so he called out that everyone should be removed from in front of him, so no one would see when he told his brothers who he was.  He said ‘“I am Yosef, is my father still alive?” And the brothers couldn’t answer him because they were alarmed before him’. There are many, many, commentaries on this:


1) The Midrash Rabbah states: Abba Kohen Bardela (a”h) said, “Woe to us from the Yom HaDin/Day of Judgment; woe to us from the Day of Rebuke. Yosef was the youngest of the Shvatim/Tribes, yet his brothers were unable to answer him. When HaKadosh Baruch Hu comes and rebukes each one according to who he is, like it is writtenI will rebuke you and I will lay out before your eyes’ (this is HaKadosh Baruch Hu speaking), all the more so.” HaRav Shimon Yosef Meller shlita comments on this Midrash:  He asks:  What rebuke was Yosef HaTzaddik giving here that left his brothers speechless with alarm?  And he explains that when he said “I am Yosef” they suddenly realized that they had been living with a false belief for decades!  All their decisions to kill him, to sell him, etc. – it had all been in error!  Even in the present, they had believed until this moment that they were speaking with an Egyptian ruler. All their strategies were based on this “fact” – and they suddenly learned that this “Egyptian” before them was none other than Yosef, their brother.  This is the greatest rebuke a man can receive; he says; when he is shown that he has been living under a mistaken assumption all his life, and all his plans and actions have been based on falsehood.[4]  This is why people say that it was a rebuke what he said, according to Reb Meller shlita. 


2) Asks Rebbe Meir Shapiro zt”l (founder of Daf Yomi); why did Yosef HaTzaddik ask “is my father still alive?”? Yehuda had just said that they couldn’t go back without Binyamin because Yaakov Avinu would die if he saw them without Binyamin!!  So, he explains that what Yosef HaTzaddik was asking was if his father was still alive. Meaning: Yehuda had kept calling Yaakov Avinu ‘your servant, my father’ and Yosef hadn’t protested!  So what he was asking – says Reb Meir zt”l – was if Yaakov Avinu was still as alive as he used to be in his own heart, because he was alarmed that he had let them say ‘your servant my father’ (which the Sages criticize him for), which he would never have let before.[5] 


3)  The Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) also comments on this, and he explains that when Yosef HaTzaddik said “I am Yosef” everything that had happened in the past 22 years fell into place, and Hashem’s plan was realized.  It all made sense now!  And he says that this is what will happen in Yi’mos HaMashiach/the Days of Mashiach:  When Hashem will say “I am Hashem”, everything that happened in the world will fall into place and everybody will understand Hashem’s plan, and we will understand all the events that happened throughout history, and why they happened.[6] 

We will basically all be like “Oh!! That’s why this-and-this happened!” Right now, we cannot even begin to really understand what Hashem’s Ultimate Plan is, and, only Hashem does.  But, in Yi’mos HaMashiach/the Days of Mashiach, may they be sent speedily in our days, He will let us understand.  This is a strong lesson for us:  Never question Hashem’s Deeds.  We must always believe with perfect faith that what He brings is always for the best, and, as we saw above from the Chofetz Chaim zt”l, we will understand someday – may it be soon, Amein. 


4) So, we had one answer above about how what Yosef HaTzaddik said was a rebuke, but this is another one, from the Beis HaLevi (HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l):  He explains that when Yosef HaTzaddik said “is my father still alive?”, that was the rebuke.  Because he was asking them, is my father still alive after all the trouble and sadness you put him through by selling me?![7]  This is a big lesson:  We must always try to stay away from hurting others in any way, and we must always be very careful of their feelings, etc.  This is discussed and stressed in Mussar. 


5) This thought is recorded in the book Kol Aryeh (by HaRav Avraham Yehuda HaKohen Schwartz zt”l):  So, he discusses the fact that if someone did something really mean to you (Chas V’Shalom), obviously, your nature would be to retaliate.  However, the Torah (in Parshas Kedoshim) requires us not to take revenge on a fellow Jew!  This can be a hard thing to fulfill.  And he says that is almost like an Angel to not take revenge! (Though of course, people are totally capable of not taking revenge – as long as we try).  But there was a person, he says, who had people do something very bad to him, yet did not retaliate at all:  Who?  Yosef HaTzaddik!  His brothers threw him in the pit and sold him – which led to lots of hard things.  But he did not take any revenge on them.  We must try to take this lesson and try to, with Hashem’s Help, put it into action.  And remember:  Once you train yourself not to take revenge for some time, it gets easier....

Okay, back to the parsha:  Yosef HaTzaddik reassured them and told them that it was Hashem’s plan that he go down ahead of them.  This should honestly teach us a great lesson in life:  The Brothers had caused so many hard and “bad” things to happen to Yosef HaTzaddik, but he always remembered and realized that the hard times and “bad” things were actually all for the absolute best.  Hashem does not let anything bad happen:  Everything He makes happen is for the best (like we discussed above).  


But, anyway, Paroah heard about the fact that Yosef’s brothers were there, and he was happy about it.  He told Yosef HaTzaddik to give them provisions, and Yosef did.  The Brothers came up to Yaakov Avinu, and they told him that Yosef was still alive. But Yaakov didn’t believe them at first. Avos D’Rabbi Nosson explains that this is the fate of someone who lies; he isn’t believed. The Brothers lied to Yaakov Avinu with the sale of Yosef HaTzaddik, and now he didn’t believe them when they told him that Yosef was alive.  The Brothers then told him what Yosef HaTzaddik had said, and showed him the wagons, (one of the things Yosef HaTzaddik had the Brothers take was wagons) and he then believed them. 


Now, the word for wagons is ‘Agalos’ and Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah, which says an amazing thing on this.  He says that the word ‘Agalos/wagons’ also could mean calves, because, as we know, the word for calf is eigel. So he quotes that Yosef HaTzaddik told his brothers to tell Yaakov Avinu the last thing that they had been learning, which was the Eglah arufah (the thing where there is a corpse found in between two cities, and the elders of the city that it is closest to, have to break a calf’s neck, and wash their hands over it to atone for the Jews, and they ask Hashem to atone for the Jews).  This was the sign that Yosef HaTzaddik told his brothers. 


So, I heard from HaRav Moshe Elefant shlita a beautiful thing from the Pardes Yosef (HaRav Yosef Patzanovski zt”l):  The Pardes Yosef says that one of the reasons why Yaakov Avinu came to Yosef – the father to the son, instead of the other way around – is because of the last thing they had learned together – the Eglah arufah. Why? Because in the case of Eglah arufah, as we learn in Gemara Sotah Daf 45, if you find a head and a body of a dead person, you bring the head to the body, and Yaakov Avinu was like the head and Yosef HaTzaddik like the body. 


Back to the parsha:  Yaakov said that Yosef was still alive, and he undertook the journey to go to him, and he came to Be’er Sheva. He offered offerings to Hashem, and Hashem came to him at night, and He told him that He would bring them up from Mitzraim/Egypt. The Torah lists the people who came down to Mitzraim/Egypt, and it says that there were seventy.  Yaakov Avinu sent Yehuda ahead of him to prepare the way in Goshen.


Rashi HaKadosh quotes a Midrash that says that Yaakov was sending Yehuda to establish a Beis Midrash there, i.e. a house of study. When Yosef and Yaakov Avinu met, and Yosef HaTzaddik wept on his neck.  Yosef told his brothers to tell Paroah that they were shepherds.  And as Rashi HaKadosh explains, this was so that Paroah would push them away, because a shepherd is an abomination to the Mitzrim/Egyptians, because they worshiped sheep, so they could live in Goshen. 


And the Chiddushei HaRim (Rebbe Yitzchok Meir Alter zt”l) says that Yosef basically gave a lesson for future generations of Jews. He says that the lesson is that we should try not to mingle with the goyim, at least as little as possible. As we know, usually, Jews live in areas where mostly Jews live, not too many goyim. In the seventh Aliyah, Yosef HaTzaddik gathers all the money in Mitzraim/Egypt, and brings it to Paroah. When all the money was gone from the people from Mitzraim/Egypt, they came and Yosef he had them trade their livestock to him for bread.[8]


There are 106 pessukim in this parsha, which we are told corresponds to the Gematria/numerical value of the words ‘yihalel Kel/he shall praise Hashem’ (the real Name of Hashem though).  And HaRav Dovid Feinstein shlita says that this corresponds to the praise due Hashem for helping Yosef HaTzaddik and reuniting his family with him. Also, for orchestrating the things that led up to the slavery in Mitzraim/Egypt.[9]  Why was that something for Him to be praised for?  But, as we know, the answer is that everything Hashem does is always for the best – including sending us into Exile. 


I wish every Jew a wonderful Tenth of Teves and a week full of holiness!!

  1. Told over by HaRav Gedaliah Jaffe shlita on
  2. From The Stone Edition Chumash.  By HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita.  Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd. 
  3. From  Told over by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita.
  4. From The Torah of Brisk and other Gedolim:  Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (original - Shai LaTorah).  By HaRav Shimon Yosef Meller shlita.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.
  5. From
  6. From The Stone Edition Chumash.  By HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita.  Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd. 
  7. From  Told over by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita.
  8. From The Stone Edition Chumash.  By HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita.  Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd.
  9. From The Stone Edition Chumash.  By HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita.  Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd.

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