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Vayigash 5770

By: Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz

Yehuda and Yosef Parshat Vayigash is the third out of the last four Parshiyot of sefer Breishit which all deal with the complex relationship between Yosef and his brothers. It is interesting to note that while the Torah devotes a mere 31 verses to the description of the creation of the whole universe in the first perek of Breishit, it devotes 14 chapters, hundreds of pesukim to the relationship between these 12 brothers! A similar phenomenon is prevalent regarding the building of the Mishkan. The details of this small structure, 20 wooden beams long and eight beams wide, is described for over four hundred verses in sefer Shmot. Apparently the reason for this is that the purpose of the Torah is not to deliver information regarding things that exist in the world and were created by Hashem, however important they may be. The purpose of the Torah is to instruct, le'horot, (see Rashi Breishit 1; 1), to tell us what to do. The created world is the making of Hashem, it is a given. It is profound and complicated and we admire Hashem's wisdom that is portrayed by it, but it's not of our making. What's important as humans is what we make and what we do and therefore even a small structure has much more significance than the universe itself. Having said that we must try to understand the significance of the sibling rivalry that the Torah portrays to us in so much detail over these four long parshiot and what instruction lies in it. The most significant personality in these perakim is certainly Yosef. In fact it seems that after the Torah has told us about the Avot it proceeds to tell us about Yosef, the next dominant leader of Bnei Yaakov. However, parallel to Yosef we learn about his brothers, in particular we learn about Yehuda. The Midrashei Agadah at the beginning of the parsha describe the confrontation between Yehuda and Yosef dramatically. A confrontation between kings. Both Yehuda and Yosef are seen as representing something much more than themselves. Who are Yehuda and Yosef? What are they representing and what are they fighting over? Yosef from the outset is a dreamer. He dreams about the sun, the moon and the stars. He sets his goals high and wants to have influence on the whole world. Yosef, as well, is an exemplary organizer and statesmen, constantly finding favor in the eyes of all that meet him. He dreams about sheaves of wheat and we see that he becomes the treasurer of the Egyptian empire. Yosef knows his strength and believes that through his aspirations and abilities he, along with his brothers, should go out there into the world, live amongst the nations of the world and bring about the Ge'ulah for the whole of humanity. The brothers, with Yehuda at the head, think otherwise. The way to influence the world is through Jewish Nationalism. The building of a strong, independent, moral and just society is the way to achieve Tikun Olam. This is not mere sibling rivalry, this is the future of the Jewish People at stake and the brothers of Yosef see in Yosef a threat to their future, the future of Brit Avraham, and they act accordingly. Initially they seek to kill Yosef but ultimately, at the advice of Yehuda, they send Yosef off to Egypt to "see what will be with his dreams". Will he succeed or not? Contrary to what was written in last weeks e-mail shiur, that Yosef's intention with the whole facade with his brothers was all an attempt to re-unite the family, I would like to suggest quite the opposite. It seems to me that Yosef had made the decision to break away from his family completely. Yosef understood that the family had decided that his derech was a danger for them and had expelled him. Based on the precedents of Yitzchak and Yishmael, Yaakov and Eisav, it was more than a reasonable assumption. It is even quite possible that Yosef thought that his father had been in on this decision and that was why Yaakov had sent him to his "hating" brothers in the first place. This would explain the names Yosef calls his children (see Breishit 41; 51, 52), and would very simply explain why Yosef never sent a message home to his father to reassure him. (This theory has been given before; I'm not sure by whom.) When Yehuda and the brothers appear before Yosef in Egypt, Yosef's only concern is for his young brother Binyamin. Being Yosef's brother, Yosef is concerned regarding his wellbeing and suspects that maybe the brothers had dealt with him in the same or a worse way. His suspicions are increased by what the brothers say to each other in perek 42 Pesukim 20 and 21: "21They said to one another, Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us. 22Then Reuven answered them, Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood. 23They did not know that Yoseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. 24He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them" The brothers of Yosef were obviously referring to what they had done to Yosef , however without going into the details of the sale of Yosef, and who exactly sold him (See Rashi and Rashbam Breishit 37: 28) Yosef understands the above words as been spoken about Binyamin, not himself. The "reckoning of the blood" is for the blood of Binyamin as the brothers never shed Yosef's blood. Therefore Yosefs concern is for his brother, to find out if he is still alive and to save him from his brothers. The whole plot of Yosef is geared towards this goal. He forces the brothers to come back with Binyamin and tries to create animosity between them by favoring Binyamin with extra garments and ultimately hiding the royal cup in his bag which would obviously cause hatred from the brothers towards Binyamin, which would ultimately assure that they would leave him to rot in Egypt just like they had done to him. Yosef's plan "succeeds", except for the unexpected response of Yehuda. In his response Yehuda reveals that the brothers regard Binyamin as their equal. Yehuda states his unshaken commitment and responsibility for Binyamin. At this moment Yosef realizes that his fears were unfounded. Yosef reconciles with his brothers and continues with his plan. He brings his whole family down to Egypt instead of sending the brothers back to their father and supporting them there. (See perek 45: 11 Ramban and Meshech Chochmah) This is an opportunity for Yosef to fully realize his belief. Yaakov Avinu comes down to Egypt, however not in the mindset of Yosef. Yaakov Avinu is concerned and apprehensive about going down to Egypt (Perek 46;3-4), and sends Yehuda before the family in order to prepare the galut. (Perek 46 ; 28 and Rashi there!) The rivalry and ideological argument between Yosef and his brothers comes to an end when, towards the end of Sefer Breishit, Yosef himself comes to the realization that his ability as a Jew to influence his surroundings as an individual or even as a big group of individuals (Yaakov and his family) is very limited. Even more than that, already before his death, Yosef could see that life in Egypt for his family might not continue as it had been during his reign on the royal chair and he tells his brothers to take his bones from Egypt when they eventually leave. (One cannot help remembering the hope that Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, his predecessors and followers placed in the ability of enlightened religious Jews in Germany to influence their environment. Unfortunately we all know how that ended.) The argument between Yosef and his brothers was deep and all Leshem Shamayim. However the Torah has told us that we follow the opinion of Yehuda. Yosef himself comes to that realization and historically the figure of Yosef evolves into the figure of Mashiach Ben Yosef. Mashiach Ben Yosef represents the Jews through history who have used their talents, abilities and influence amongst the nations of the world in order to further the physical and material wellbeing of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael. (See "The Eulogy in Jerusalem" by Rav Kook) The future and success of the Jewish people lie in our ability to realize our destiny, the derech the Torah sets out to reach it and to know how to incorporate all the forces in Am Yisrael in order to achieve it. (see Haftarah on the parsha) Shabbat Shalom Rav Avigdor


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