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Vayigash 5769

By: Rav Yonatan Horovitz

The Endgame of Sefer Bereishit Rav Yonatan Horovitz There are a number of stories of sibling rivalry found in the book of Bereishit. The most colorful yet tragic of these is the story of Yosef and his brothers which meets its climactic ending in this week's parsha, Vayigash. In order to discover how some of the themes found in the Yosef saga tie in to the overall picture of the book of Bereishit, let us look once again at the first fight between brothers, that of Kayin and Hevel. We are told that following the acceptance by God of Hevel's gift and the rejection of that offered by Kayin, Hashem tries to reassure Kayin that his fate is in his own hands. Kayin however is not comforted by these words and slays his brother. Prior to this violent act the Torah tells us that Kayin "spoke with his brother, Hevel" (Bereishit 4:8) The Midrash Rabbah enlightens us as to the subject of their conversation and gives several suggestions: a. The two brothers had agreed to divide up the contents of the world. One took the real estate, the land, while the other gained control of all moveable objects. Thereafter an argument arose. One accused the other of trespassing on his land; the latter responded that the other's clothing really belongs to him. b. The two split the land between them. One claimed that the future Beit Hamikdash should be built on his land; the other wanted it erected in his domain. c. There was a twin girl born with Hevel. Kayin claimed she was destined for him for he was the firstborn; Hevel retorted that she was meant for him because she was his twin. A cursory glance at this midrash reveals that there are three types of arguments suggested which could be seen as the prototypes of most, if not all, sources of conflict in the world. Land and property, religion, and women or family rights. All these issues we find addressed in one form or another at the culmination of the Yosef story. a. Towards the end of Parshat Vayigash, Yosef creates a system by which the people of Egypt, despite needing to pay the royal family for food, will not be homeless. He institutes a division of property bill by which every family is ensured a home and sustenance. (This episode is found in Bereishit 47:14-26) If we examine the cycle of events carefully, we see that the Egyptian people offered themselves as slaves in order to ensure that they would receive grain and food from the royal storehouses. Yosef did not accept their offer but rather turns them into percentage workers on their own land. We see, amongst other things that Yosef is opposed to the concept of slavery. [This may explain why, at the beginning of the book of Shemot, the Torah states, prior to the enslavement of the Jews, that a king arose who did not know Yosef. This new king was implementing an economic policy antithetical to that of Yosef; he was creating an entire class system based on slave labor.] We see how Yosef deals with problems which could arise based on distribution of land and property, thereby correcting the source of the argument between Kayin and Hevel. b. The emotional reunion between Yosef and Binyamin is described by the Torah: "He embraced his brother Binyamin around the neck and wept, and Binyamin wept on his neck." (Bereishit 45:14) This mutual emotional outburst which occurs between these two brothers after so many years of living apart would appear entirely natural. Rashi, however, suggests that the two were crying for other reasons too. Yosef wept for the two Batei Mikdash to be erected in Binyamin's portion of the land which will eventually be destroyed. Binyamin, on his part, was crying for Mishkan Shilo which, after being established in Yosef's land, was also destined to be destroyed. We can suggest that Rashi is conveying an important idea. At this juncture, there was no jealousy between the two brothers. Each was concerned for the loss of the other. The fact that this emotion centers around the Bet Mikdash and the Mishkan takes us back to the midrash quoted above about Kayin and Hevel and shows that as we near the end of the sefer, this source of rivalry has dissipated. c. The third suggestion raised by the midrash as to the root of the discussion between Kayin and Hevel was that of women. Although women do play a role in the saga of the sons of Ya'akov; Yehudah and Tamar on the one hand, Yosef and Potifar's wife on the other; we extend this notion to relate to family feuds. It is clear that the latter third of Sefer Bereishit features a vie for leadership of the tribes. The main players are Reuven, Yehudah and Yosef. As we reach the end of the story, a partnership emerges between Yehudah and Yosef, one which serves as a prelude to the eventual redemption which is to be led by Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach Ben David, a descendant of Yehuda. Here too, we note that the problems encountered in that first example of sibling rivalry have been overcome especially as in this case, the spilling of blood was, if only just, avoided. Chazal term the book of Bereishit, Sefer Hayetzira, the book of Creation. This would seem to be a strange name for the entire book which, aside from the first two chapters, does not deal with creation. One answer to this question is to state that creation does not merely refer to physical objects but rather relates to the creation of Am Yisrael, those 70 souls described in this week's parsha which form the nucleus of what will eventually become the nation Am Yisrael. The above analysis, connecting the story of Kayin and Hevel with the end of the sefer, while not claiming to be peshat does allow us to raise a further suggestion in defining "Yetzira". The first book of the Torah is less about mitzvoth and more about values. We find little mention of specific laws but lengthy discussions of relationships between family members. It is clear that we are to learn from these events on many levels. The endgame of the sefer demonstrates what our conclusions should be from these episodes. We should realize what can be done to resolve disputes, to avoid conflict and to create a society in which harmony and peace prevail. After all, as the Rambam states at the end of Hilchot Chanuka, thats what the Torah is all about: "Great is peace, for all the Torah was given in order to make peace in the world, as it says' Her paths are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace, Deracheha darchei noam, vechol netivoteiha shalom'." Shabbat shalom Rav Yonatan Ryh@harova.org

 

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