This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Vayigash (5766)
This week's section VaYigash, which means 'And he approached', is the finale of the traumatic saga of Josef and his brothers.
It begins with Judah approaching Josef to beg for mercy and interestingly the only one of Josef's brothers that is really highlighted in the entire section is Judah. The others are barely mentioned.
The Zohar and books of Chassidut explain the reason; Judah represents Moshiach (who will come from the tribe of Judah) while Josef is a preparatory stage before Moshiach and this section hints at the future 'Geula' (redemption of the world) through Moshiach.
So we see later (46:4) when G-d encourages Jacob to go down to Egypt and says, "...and I will take you up and take you up". The first 'taking up' refers to the redemption from Egypt and the second to the future redemption.
But this is not so understood. Our section depicts Josef as the king and Judah begging for mercy. If Judah really represents Moshiach then it should be the other way around. Moshiach will be a king, he's even called 'Melech HaMoshiach', and all the world will come to him!
We can try to understand this from the following story.
Rabbi Mordechai Liepli was a devoted follower of the second Rebbe of Chabad Rabbi Dov Ber some two hundred years ago.
In those days it was not common for the Chassidim to go to their Rebbe with every problem as it is today. The Rebbe was considered a purely spiritual person for spiritual direction and inspiration and wasn't to be bothered with mundane problems.
So it wasn't surprising that when Reb Mordechai's son became ill and all the doctors gave up hope he only considered taking him to better doctors.
He took the boy to the best doctors and professors available in Petersburg and only after they too gave the same dim prognosis; the boy was affected with a rare incurable ailment that had even worked its way into his bones, did he think of writing the Rebbe.
He couldn't leave the boy alone to travel to the Rebbe himself and the doctors gave him at least a month to live, so he wrote a letter and prayed.
In the letter he poured out his heart, told the depressing course of events; how each doctor gave up and begged the Rebbe for a blessing or advice.
He reckoned that it would take five days for the letter to reach the Rebbe and five more for the answer to arrive so after ten days he spent every morning near his window on the lookout for the mailman. Then on the third day he saw the mailman pass by his house in a tremendous hurry.
He yelled to him, but he didn't stop, only motioned with his hand that he had no time.
But Reb Mordechai wanted to see for himself. He ran after the mailman and begged him to stop for a moment. "Are you sure there is no letter for me?" maybe if I gave you a tip?"
The mailman was obviously agitated in no mood for talking, and certainly none for stopping but when Rav Mordechi gave him a half a ruble he calmed down.
"The truth is that you do have a letter" The mailman said, "but is it so urgent? Can't it wait? I'll give it to you tomorrow, I promise. But I have to go. There is a very important visitor at the Czar's palace and I have to find him a carriage."
"A carriage?" asked Reb Mordechai, stalling for time as he looked through the letters. "What kind of carriage?" Aha!! He found the letter! It was from the city Lubavitch!! From the Rebbe!
"One of the royal family got sick." The postman continued not noticing that Reb Mordechi wasn't really listening. "I think it was the son of one of the princes. So they called a doctor from Austria, supposed to be the king of Austria's personal doctor. Now he has to go back, I guess he finished his job, and I was given the job of finding horses and a carriage. So I'm going. Okay?"
Rabbi Mordechai hardly heard what the mailman was talking about. He was busy opening the envelope and taking out the letter. "Well, good luck!" the mailman called out as he ran off into the distance in to resume his search.
Rab Mordechi thanked G-d. It was good news. The letter was encouraging. The Rebbe wrote,
"I received your letter and I paced back and forth in my room. I saw that your salvation will arrive soon; from afar and from near." And in the margin was written the words, "Don't spare any money".
He couldn't figure what the Rebbe was getting at. What did he mean by 'far and near?" Was he supposed to do something or perhaps it would come to him? If the Rebbe said not to spare money it must mean he had to act. But what? Where?
He paced back and forth in the street until after a while the postman returned again. This time he seemed to be more calm. Probably he found the carriage. Suddenly it dawned on Rab Mordechi that perhaps the doctor from Austria was the answer from 'afar'! He asked the postman where exactly this doctor was to be found and when he got the answer he ran there as fast as possible.
From a distance he could already see that a large group of people were gathered around the door of the house. As he got closer he understood why; they all wanted the doctor to treat either them or one of their loved ones. And despite the fact that the doctor sent word that he had to leave and would not treat anyone they still were waiting…perhaps he would change his mind.
But Reb Mordechai was well known and respected and it was also a matter of life and death. He was determined to get in.
With great difficulty he pushed his way into the house and finally was standing face to face with the doctor. He begged and pleaded but to no avail. The doctor was on leave from the king of Austria and was under oath to return to that country immediately upon finishing his work in Petersburg. He straightened himself, looked into the distance and, in a tone that was the paradigm of earnestness and loyalty, declared that he was faithful to his king, would never betray his orders and firmly requested Rab Mordechi to leave the premises.
Any normal person would understand that the situation was hopeless, but the Rebbe's letter gave Rab Mordechi chutzpa beyond reason. He looked the doctor in the eyes and said calmly. "I'll give you one thousand rubles for one visit to my son."
One thousand rubles was a veritable fortune in those days… perhaps the value of some one hundred thousand dollars.
The doctor suddenly became a different person, filled with concern. "Where is the boy. We have no time to waste. Show me the way." The doctor said.
They left the house via a back door and in moments the doctor was examining the child.
"The disease is severe indeed, it has entered the lad's bones." He said, "Just as the other doctors said. But not like they said there is a cure. One medicine that can heal it which, unfortunately, is not found in Russia. Your only chance is if I happen to have this medicine in my case."
The doctor sent a messenger back to his hotel room to bring the large chest that held his myriads of pills, ointments, oils and balms and, sure enough… miracle of miracles… he found the medicine he was looking for!!
It was a jar of ointment which, a few moments after he applied it to the boy's chest and other places, opened a small aperture in the boy's side from which began flowing large amounts of puss.
"The disease", he explained as they watched the remarkable effects of the treatment, "originated in an infection of the teeth and from there it spread to the rest of the body till it permeated the boy's bones. "Now", he said assuringly, "I will instruct another doctor, a friend of mine in Petersburg, how to continue the treatment and I am sure that in a week or so your son will be completely healed."
The story circulated like wildfire and everyone marveled at the exactness of the Rebbe's prophesy: The salvation came soon; along with the mailman, from afar; from the doctor from Austria, and from near; namely the ointment that just 'happened' to be in his suitcase. And the catalyst to it all was the money that, at the Rebbe's behest, Rab Mordechi did not spare.
It was obvious to all that the Rebbe had not only the power to tell the future but perhaps also to change it for the better. (Sipuri Chabad vol. 16 pg 59)
Now we can better understand the significance of Judah approaching Josef in our section.
Our section is referring to the time before the arrival of Moshiach, when the work of the Jewish people in exile; loving the Torah, loving and serving G-d and loving every Jew is essential to preparing the world for redemption.
In these days the main emphasis will be on Josef who is known as 'Josef the Tzadik'. Without the Tzadikim; true holy Jewish teachers, the Jews (from the name Judah) are lost, without direction, inspiration or unity… like sheep without a shepherd.
Like Reb Mordechai needed the Rebbe in our story; just as Judah had to approach Josef the Tzadik, so the Jews much approach the Tzadik for him to reveal his goodness, blessing and teachings.
That is why in our section Josef is king.
But in the time of redemption the Moshiach will reveal the Tzadik in EVERY Jew. All Jews will be holy teachers. In fact this is the main task of Moshiach; to awaken the Jewish soul in all the Jews so they bring blessing and meaning to the entire world… just as Tzadikim do today.
Then Moshiach will be an entirely different type of king. He will truly reveal the 'Kingship of the Creator. And it will be revealed to not just his Chassidim or to the Jews alone… but to the entire world.
As the Rambam writes; that the world will be filled with the knowledge that G-d is creating all existence. Then every human will realize that G-d is infinitely close, good, and caring. The Jews and the gentiles will truly observe the Torah (i.e. Seven Noahide commandments for the gentiles). Something like it was in the days of Josef but infinitely more so.
It all depends on us. We just have to follow the directives of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and do all we can to bring....
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.