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Parshat Vayigash (5762)

This week's section opens with Yehuda approaching (Yigash) Yosef to demand justice.

The plot is complicated; twenty two years earlier Yehuda had convinced his nine brothers to rid themselves of their younger brother Yosef, whom they hated and had imprisoned, by selling him into slavery. And now the situation has paradoxically reversed.

Yosef had risen to become the, de facto, king of the entire world, and his brothers (who don't recognize him) are now his prisoners.

But what is so special about this meeting that it merits being the beginning (and the namesake) of an entire Torah section?

There certainly are more dramatic scenes here to begin our section with. For instance; Yosef later announcing his true identity to his astounded brothers, or his emotional meeting with his father who had given him up for dead.

What was so special about this first meeting between Yehuda and Yosef?

To answer this, I'd like to bring a story that occured some 30 years ago (Rabim Hashiv M’avon vol.1 pg 76 by Rabbi Ahron Dov Halperin).

Rabbi Yitchak Wolfe of Chabad Chicago was once sitting in a bus on the way from Toronto to New York, when the religious Jew sitting next to him, a member of the ‘Papo Chassidim’, told him a story about another Papo Chassid who had been saved by Chabad.

The story begins when the saved Chassid was a young boy perhaps fifty years earlier.

The lad was bright and beautiful and his love of learning the Torah brought tremendous pleasure to his parents. When all the other children were playing games, his only interest was to learn and learn and learn. Not only that, but he understood and remembered everything he read or heard with ease, and his mind was so sharp that even the most difficult Talmudic problems were no challenge for him.

It wasn't long before he had surpassed all his classmates, and all the pupils in the entire school. Even his teachers were having trouble finding new challenges for him.

But grow as he did academically, amidst the praises of his parents and teachers, he was lacking one fundamental trait; humility. There was simply no one for him to be humble before, and people began to whisper that he was conquering the Torah and forgetting G-d; the "Giver of the Torah".

In time he became a lively, inquisitive young man, and although his parents tried to keep him from bad influences, they couldn't keep him from searching. It wasn't long before he met up with new "friends" and discovered the "enlightened" world of non-Torah knowledge; Philosophy, Politics, Art, Literature. It was all so new and alive to him, and he took to it like a fish in water.

Here was a world of action and results, freedom and excitement with no invisible G-d telling you what to do. New vistas opened before him with new challenges, new experiences, and most importantly...new admirers.

As soon as his parents noticed what was happening they jumped into action. They tried appealing to his loyalty to G-d, to the Jewish people, to his family, but it didn't work. They brought Rabbis to speak to him, first local Rabbis, then bigger and more famous ones, but the young man made fools of them all.

He had become a cold-blooded genius, and for every one of their questions he answered, he asked them two that they couldn't.

It wasn't long before he left home, moved in to live with his intellectual friends, cut off all contact with his old life, and enrolled in a local university where he succeeded beyond belief.

After a year, all the professors were so impressed with his progress, that they recommended him to the Sorbonne University in Paris - the best in the world at that time. In less than a month he was accepted with a full scholarship. A week later he was in France, had rented a room, and enrolled in University, and was briskly walking, head erect long hair ruffling in the breeze, to his first lecture. How exhilarating!

Now he was truly free! He was no longer just a Jew. Now he was part of all mankind. The ornately decorated crowded University corridor with its high arched ceilings and exquisite paintings and murals, echoed his thoughts.

Suddenly he felt that someone was staring at him from a distance.

Sure enough, through the crowd of students he saw a young, bearded Jewish man, hat on his head heading directly toward him. He tried to turn away and walk to the side, but it didn't help.

They met face to face. The Jew confronted him, looked deeply into his eyes and said,

"Have you put on Tefillin today?"

He was stunned! How did he know he know he was Jewish? The stranger gently put his hand on our hero's shoulder and continued.

"No? No problem, I put Tefillin on a lot of Jews, so I'll put on you as well. Come, it will take no more than a few minutes."

For some reason he didn't resist as the stranger took him to the side and pulled a pair of Tefillin out of his briefcase.

But that isn't the end of the story. Every day for several months this mysterious stranger came to his room with Tefillin, until our wayward friend returned to his Jewish identity contacted his parents and asked that they send his Tefillin.

After a while the young man came to understand that the stranger who visited him daily was none other than Rabbi Menachem Shneerson, the future Lubavitcher Rebbe, when he was learning in the Sorbonne. And Today that young man is sixty years old, and one of the pillars of the Papo Chassidim.

This helps answer our question.

According to the teachings of Kabala (Mystical Judaism) the meeting between Yosef and Yehuda was a preparation for the arrival of Moshiach, when proper action will be higher than proper intellect.

Yosef (Yesod) represents Torah undertanding and advancement (Yosef means "to increase") while Yehuda (Malchut) stands for simple action and humility (Yhuda means thanks and surrender)

Yosef stands for greatness that can only be achieved by intellect (as Pharaoh said after Yosef interpreted his dreams 41:39)). But the danger of such greatness is that it may conflict with the Greatness of the Creator, (as we saw with the young man in our story).

But Yehuda was different; he bravely approached Yosef and spoke harshly, with no thought of the consequences. He represented a new type of king who puts the main emphasis on humility and surrender to HaShem.

He was a forerunner of Moshiach. Therefore Moshiach will come from the tribe of Yehuda, the namesake of the Jewish people Yehudim.

Interestingly, the first time the Jews were actually called "Yhudim" (Jews) was in the story of Purim, because of their complete surrender (Hodaa) to HaShem, and their firm unreasoning stand for Judaism against Haman. Like Yehuda did.

That was also one of the main causes of the destruction of each of the two Temples; The Jews, something like the young man in our story, knew Torah, but forgot about G-d. And the thing that will fix it is unquestioning action; just as the mysterious stranger’s call to action negated all the young rebel’s egotism and intellectual doubts.

That is what we can learn from this week's section. The surest way to bring Moshiach, who will unite the Jewish people, rebuild the Temple, and fill the world with peace and prosperity, is not necessarily through great achievements and intellect, but through humility and good deeds!

Indeed; one more good deed word or even THOUGHT from just one more Jew can tilt the entire world and bring………

Moshiach NOW!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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