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 (5769)
In this week's Torah portion we read of the re-uniting of Josef and his brothers in Egypt.
The Torah tells us that when Josef saw his brother Benjamin they hugged, fell on each other's shoulders and wept.
Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Bible, explains that Josef wept on the two Holy Temples that were to be destroyed in the land of Benjamin and Benjamin wept on the destroyed Tabernacle in Shilo in the portion of Josef.
But at first glance this is not clear. After all, Benjamin and Josef as the only sons of Rachel were very close. Why not just say that they wept from joy after being united! What have the Temples and Tabernacles got to do with it? And why did each one cry for the Temple of the OTHER? Why not each their own?
To understand this, here is a story (The Storyteller vol. 3 Pg 171)
Some 200 years ago in a small village in Poland lived an old, poor, simple Jew called Getzel haMafshet (the hide remover) and his wife in a run-down hut.
Getzel had been a strong, robust fellow whose job was to strip the hides from slaughtered cattle in the slaughter house. It was difficult work and paid very little but he had been good at it, it was just about all he knew how to do and he was totally satisfied with the meager life he and his wife led. He was a quiet fellow but always had a smile on his face, a warm handshake, a word of praise for G-d and a good word for and about everyone.
He wasn't able to really learn Torah, only to read from the Prayer Book and the Book of Psalms but he was healthy and happy.
In fact, only at the age of seventy did he begin to slow down. But gradually, as the years passed, he lessened his hours of work and his wife had to do some sewing and cooking for others to make ends meet.
Finally, when Getzel must have been close to eighty, his wife appeared before the Rabbi of the town saying that her husband felt the time had come for him to return his soul to his Father in Heaven and he wanted to ask the Rabbi something.
The Rabbi closed the book he was studying, and followed the woman to her humble dwelling.
She stepped aside respectfully to let the Rabbi open the door but when he did, and saw Getzel lying in bed a sudden look of astonishment passed over his face and he closed it, stepped back for a few seconds, then opened it again and entered.
Getzel's pale face lit up a bit when he saw the Rabbi and he even tried to hold out his hand to shake, but he was too weak.
Getzel's voice was barely audible. He apologized for troubling the Rabbi and explained why he did it.
"Rabbi, listen, I'm about to go and I am very troubled. I never really did much for G-d here. I was too illiterate
to teach or even learn Torah. Why, I could barely read the prayers. No good deeds either. I was always working or resting and I was too poor to give charity. Heh! I don't think I ever helped anyone! That's why I called you.
"Now I'm going before the heavenly court and, well… I have nothing to show for the time I was here. Don't even have a son or someone to say Kaddish (mourners prayer) for my soul either; never had children.
"That's why I've troubled you Rabbi … please forgive me a thousand times. Please do me this favor, even though I have no money to pay, please find someone to say Kaddish for me and pray for my soul." And he began to cry silently.
"Of course, Getzel. I promise" answered the Rabbi. "You don't have to cry. But listen, Getzel, listen. What you said about good deeds. Well, I don't think you're right. That is, I'm sure you must have done something outstandingly good; some big Mitzva. Maybe you forgot. Think Getzel! Please try to remember. I'm sure you did something."
Getzel slowly shook his head no and a tear ran down his cheek. "Good deed?" He whispered "No, nothing! No. Nothin…" Suddenly he closed his eyes and was silent.
His eyes opened, looking at the Rabbi with satisfaction. "You're right! There is something. It's not so special… but it was …..something!
"A long time ago, maybe fifty years, I was walking to work, to the slaughter house, when I hear a noise. I looked up and saw horses galloping full speed, pulling a carriage filled with ladies and children screaming. It was coming toward me fast, racing down the hill. The driver must have been drunk or something but it was barreling down weaving back and forth, filled with women and children all screaming and crying.
I was young and strong back then. I jumped in the middle of the road and began waving my hands to force the horses to the side. Then when the wagon was almost on me I jumped aside, grabbed on, jumped in, sat next to the driver who was completely drunk, and slowed it down. The people were all confused, almost fainting, dressed up like going to a wedding. So I drove it into the town where a wedding was just beginning, tied it to a post and went to work."
The story took a lot of energy from Getzel, he lay back down but his eyes were bright with hope.
"I guess I saved their lives Rabbi. But, how did you know? I mean, if you hadn't forced me…. I don't know how I remembered! How did you know? "
The Rabbi leaned forward and said. "My dear Getzel, did you notice that when I first came in to your room I was so surprised I closed the door again? I was surprised because I saw something. You know what I saw Getzel?
"Well, over your head was a Menorah burning! It was glowing with a brilliant shine! I knew you must have done something special. My dear Getzel, you are a tzadik!! I knew it when I saw that light. And now I know what it is.
"Do you hear me Getzel?" The Rabbi continued softly, the Mishna in Sanhedrin says that anyone who saves even one person has merit as though he saved the entire world and you saved many worlds many times over!! If you ask me Getzel, in heaven you have nothing to worry about!"
Getzel was nodding his head and smiling at the Rabbi in wide-eyed astonishment with tears of joy and gratitude.
"Now I have a favor to ask of you." The Rabbi continued. "When you get to heaven, if you are able to, I want you to let me know how the heavenly court dealt with you. And regarding the saying of Kadish, I promise to have it taken care of."
That evening Getzel passed away and the next day was buried among the righteous of the community. Three days later he appeared to the Rabbi in a dream and said.
"Rabbi, hello! I made a promise to you and now I am permitted to fulfill it. I came to tell you that when I appeared before the Heavenly Court a huge scale was placed before me. In the cup on its right side, to my surprise, were stacked up quite a few good deeds and it made me feel good. But then on the left side they started piling all my wrongdoings and I was really scared. They were so many, a lot more than the good ones, that it got closer and closer to the ground. The Judge raised his gavel and was about to bring it down but then just as sentence was about to be pronounced, a wagon drawn by a pair of horses came dashing out of nowhere and landed on the right side of the scale!
"Not just the wagon! The horses, the mud on the wagon wheels and, of course, all the ladies and children in the wagon including the drunken driver! It reversed the whole thing. Suddenly the scale tilted in my favor and a host of bright angels jumped aboard the wagon to weigh it down totally. Then a voice came from Heaven saying 'Open the Gates of Righteousness for the Tzadikim!' and the gates of heaven opened. But before I entered I was told I had to first fulfill my promise to you.
"Now I must go, but please tell everyone that what seems to be small, even one good deed, in the physical world can tip all the scales here."
This answers our questions.
There is no reason to cry or get emotional about one's own problems. These demand immediate action, not crying. Like when Getzel in our story saw the wagon, he knew that he had to act fast and not think or cry.
But if we see problems of others that are out of our control and there is nothing we can DO to solve or correct… then we must at least cry, pray and hope that they will do all they can to fix it.
That is why Josef and Benjamin wept for the Temples; because Josef and Benjamin were not just individual people with private problems. Their lives touched at the essence of man and the purpose of all mankind. And there is nothing more essential to mankind than the Holy Temples where the Creator was revealed in His creation.
Therefore each wept for the other's destruction because each knew that it was the most they could do; in the end each person has to correct his/her own faults and selfish attitudes that cause destruction and exile; others can only cry and feel for them. (Something like the Rabbi did for Getzel in our story).
This is a very important lesson to us. We must fix ourselves up in every way possible; eliminate hatred, worry, jealousy, negativity and selfishness.... the real causes of our problems and of the terrible exile we're in.
But we must also cry, pray and feel for others when we can't actively help.
Then, in the merit of brotherly love we can look forward to the building of the Third Temple, the gathering of all the Jews in Jerusalem and true world peace, blessing and joy with...
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.