Rabbi Shafir's Weekly D'var Torah
B'reyshit (Genesis)
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V'yigash (And he drew near)

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1. Parsha Details
2. Questions (and a few observations) on the excerpts
3. Some Observations
4. Fast of the 10th of Tevet (Asarah b'Tevet) - Friday
5. Exercises
1. Parsha details:  Gen 44:18-47:27 (tri 46:28-47:27) [Haftorah Ezekiel 37:15-28] 
2. Questions and a few observations

Summary: Was it worth the wait?  Of course!  Judah delivers one of the most touching speeches and Joseph melts.  He reveals himself to them and then sends them off to tell Jacob and bring the whole family down to Goshen to wait out the famine.  They come and convince Pharaoh to let them live in Goshen.  Joseph sets about 'buying' the cattle, flocks (didn't the Egyptians abhor shepherds??) and land in return for food.  Only the priests land is spared.  Everyone and everything becomes Pharaoh's in return for the food which Joseph had collected as taxes back in the 'plenty' years.

How does that song go?  Clever kid, this Joseph lad....   And we really see that -- last Parsha and the beginning of this one, he has the brothers fooled.  He rehearses the brothers on what to say to Pharaoh to get him to say let them live in Goshen (also called Rameses - see 47:6 & 11), and then he acquires everything except for the priest's land in Egypt for Pharaoh.  Not bad for a dreamer.

And there's another mention of his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, from Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On -- cliffhanger here for one more week, until the blessings discussion.

Let's go to the scene where Judah is explaining to Joseph why Benjamin MUST go back to Jacob, not matter what it means for him personally.  Joseph hears about his fathers agony at thinking he is dead -- he may not have thought about that aspect in their earlier encounter, but Judah describes it in vivid detail.  And Joseph loved his father -- although he never tried to visit him or send word that he was alive......  Perhaps he thought more of himself then of what it did to his father?  Is there some guilt here?  Perhaps he did plan on keeping Benjamin there to play with his brothers some more -- if so, Judah's plea that Jacob's own words predicted death if any harm came to Benjamin.

No wonder Joseph sends out those around him.  45:2 says: V'yiteyn et kolo b'v'khi -- he put his voice into weeping -- can you hear that wail?  Egypt (Pharaoh) did, and his house listened to it.  Remember, Joseph was in his house -- nearby, but such a wail was probably not common.  

Probably still sobbing, Joseph turns to them (probably from across the room) and says:  "I am Joseph; does my father still live?"  Now, if you were there, do you think you'd be able to say, "Sure, he's okay"?  Or do you think you'd react much like the brothers, unable to "answer him; for they were troubled by his presence."  And this is probably said in Hebrew or the family dialect.....  how many mouths do think were hanging open?

By the next pasuk, Joseph collects himself a bit and call them over to him - probably not wanting all of Egypt to hear this next part -- (would you if you were him?).  They come closer and tells them things that only they as a group know, ending with telling them to look 'with their eyes' that "it is my mouth that speaks to you."  In other words, no interpreter -- him, speaking Hebrew, intimately.  And Benjamin probably was not privy to all of the details Joseph would have cited.  Joseph is probably seeing quite a reflection in Benjamin's eyes.

And then the brothers go back to Canaan to tell Jacob everything -- and he faints....  are you surprised?  And Torah adds so simply "for he believed them not."  Would you believe them?  But as Jacob listens to their recounting of Joseph's words -- perhaps something that only Joseph would say and the Jacob would recognize -- and then he looks at everything Joseph sent and KNOWS it is true.  Twenty two long years since Jacob gave him up for dead.

And Jacob stops at Beersheba to offer sacrifices [z'vakhim] to the God of his father Isaac.  The only other time we have heard this word for sacrifice is when he parted company with Laban.  This sacrifice is slaughtered and eaten.  Remember that Laban and company arose the next morning to start their journey.  And Jacob hears God in a "vision of the night" saying that He will not leave him, but will travel with him.

When Joseph meets his father on his way to Goshen, we are told that he "wept on his neck a good while".  This is not surprising given the earlier emotions and long separation.  And when Joseph actually sees Jacob, he can see what Jacob has been through.  We know that it has not been an easy life for Jacob both from what Torah has already told us and from Pharaoh's asking him how old he is.  Jacob says that he is only hundred and thirty years old because the days have been hard on him.  He does not expect to live to be as old as his fathers.  

An aside on the math here.  Joseph is 30+7+2=39.  Jacob is 130.  When Joseph was born, Jacob was 91.  Jacob lived in Haran for 20 years.  That was not a young man that left to find his wives.  (Isaac was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born and lived to be 180 -- he died ten years before this scene, while Joseph was in Egypt.  Jacob and Esau were 120 when they buried their father.) 

One last point  -- Jacob blesses Pharaoh when he enters and when he exits.  He is gracious and well mannered before Pharaoh.  We do hear of the brothers being so genteel.  But then, Joseph hand-picked five of them to be presented to Pharaoh to convince him to leave them in Goshen.  Maybe graciousness and manners was not what he was looking for in his selection.  And we do not know who he picked.  Torah doesn't say.

As I said, clever lad, this Joseph -- not much happens by accident.
3. Some Observations

And the drama continues. This is another incredible parsha. The characters are still all around and we find ourselves catching our breaths again as we listen to it. 

And it is the continuation of a wonderful, polished account. It is almost a single section -- there is one inserted section to give the names of the souls of Jacob that came into Egypt.  In fact, the section continues for the first Aliyah for next week.

And then there is the 20% tax Joseph imposed in Pharaoh's name in the period of plenty. A double tithe, one fifth. Of course, in a period of plenty, there was enough to go around. But now we have famine.  Joseph is selling the grain he collected in the tax and gets everything from everyone in order for them to get food.  And then, they are to give twenty percent of their efforts to Pharaoh from then on in return for the grain to grow and eat.  Not much has really changed except that Joseph moves everyone to new land, thus breaking up family ties and potential allegiances.  And, of course, Pharaoh now owns everything and everyone -- pretty clever.   

Back to the beginning of the parsha -- Judah.  What an interesting character he was, too.  Great speaker.  Fourth son.  The one whose promise Jacob accepts as surety for Benjamin.  The one Jacob sent ahead to Goshen to make ready for his arrival.  The one he trusted.  The one who recognized his error with Tamar.  The great house of Judah, the lion.  The ancestor of most Jews today (biggest exception being descendents of Levi), the ancestor of David and the kings.  We get so little about any of the other brothers -- just glimpses, quick comments, little asides, and, of course, the blessings.  But that comes next week.  The cliffhanger isn't quite over yet.....

4. Fast of the 10th of Tevet (Asarah b'Tevet) - Friday

A minor fast -- sunrise to sunset.  Commemorates the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's two year siege of Jerusalem which led to the destruction of the first Temple.

Tevet -- Winter solstice.  

The Rabbis viewed the fast not an end in itself, but is intended to prompt inner reflection,repentance and a drawing nearer to God.

In Israel, the 10th of Tevet has been established by the Chief Rabbinate as the day of mourning for all those who perished in the Holocaust and whose yahrzeit (anniversary of their death) is unknown. We might also add those who have no family or loved ones left to say Kaddish. 

I am neither promoting nor condemning fasts -- that is a personal decision.  But whether or not you decide to fast, please take just a moment or two this Friday to think about the events and people to whom this day is dedicated.

5. Exercises

1. Warmth: Winter -- Think of Shekhina, Warmth, Light, Energy, Nourishing.  Surrounding, flowing, enveloping.  The Feminine.  The Healing.  Nurturing.  Think of ourselves as vessels for the Warmth, the Energy, the Glow.  Feel it flow into us and fill us up to the brim.  Bask in Her for a moment or two.  

2. Seige: Jerusalem under siege two years.  Nothing in, nothing out.  Ghetto.  Holocaust.  Faces.  People.  Children.  Cold, hungry, crying.  To hungry to cry.  To tired to cry.  Kaddish.   

3. Elohai Avotainu v'Imotainu: God of our fathers and mothers.  We all experience the Divine in our own unique way.  We approach Him/Her as we are ready to, as we are able to.  How did Abraham approach God?  
How did Sarah?  Isaac?  Rivka?  Jacob?  Leah?  Rachel?  Your mother, your father. You?

There are many traditional interpretations of the parsha that I neither talk about nor mention. That is done from a position of space. I trust that the average reader is either familiar with these or can find many of them easily in other commentaries readily available. 

Thanks for reading this. If I have offended you, please forgive me -- that was not my intention. If you found some joy or happiness in reading this, thank you for allowing me to be a part. If you found a reason to think about something more deeply - kol hakavod and thank you!

And to the people giving me feedback thank you so much! I enjoy all of it. (Including the typos) You have made this weekly practice wonderful.



(c) 2001 Candy Lobb All rights reserved

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