This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayigash (5764)
As we mentioned many times everystory in the Torah, indeed every word, comes to teach us valuable lessons inlife.
This week's section begins withYehuda (Judah) meeting his brother Yosef (Josef) after fifteen years ofseparation.
This is a very emotional andimpressive encounter but most of all a complete reversal: Yosef who hadpreviously been the 'lowest' and weakest of his brothers now miraculously hadbecome virtual king over them and the entire world! A success story unequaledin the annals of history!
But this doesn't seem to makesense.
We will soon learn (in thebeginning of the book of Exodus) that shortly thereafter all this wascompletely erased and the Jews were plunged into abject slavery for over 210years!! And so today; the Jews are spread to the four corners of the earth andhave trouble ruling even in Israel!
So what possible meaning can allthe details of Yosef's story have to us today? And what is this coming to teachus?
Another problem is that the goalof Judaism is to bring Moshiach (Messiah) who will gather the Jews and benefitthe entire world like Josef did. But Moshiach will not be a descendent of Yosefbut rather from the tribe of and a direct descendent of Yehuda!
What is this coming to teach us?Why not from Yosef?
To understand this, here is astory.
There was once a very holy Jewand great Chassidic Rebbe called the Shpoler Zayde (Grandfather from the cityof Shpoli). People came from far and near to receive his blessings and adviceor just to be inspired by his holiness.
So when Berel Rabinowitz wasfalsely accused of embezzling money from the government he immediately ran tohim for help.
Berel had a small factory formaking vodka and two of his workers had been paid by a rival of his to sneak into his office, tamper with his account book and then report him to the police.
Berel was arrested and now,although he was out on bail, his trial was to be in two weeks and when hediscovered that no lawyer was willing to defend him he ran to the Holy Rebbe.
"Don't worry my friend"the Rebbe said. "You will only have to sit in prison for a few months,that's not so bad."
"What!?" cried Beryl,bitter tears streaming from his eyes. "Months!? Rebbe, do you know what aPolish prison is like? I've heard stories. Real true horror stories! Why, Iwouldn't last six minutes there no less months. I've heard stories. There arerats, it's freezing cold, there's no food, the prisoners are murderers,anti-Semites, blood thirsty animals!!! Rebbe .please!! save me completely .Please!!"
The Tzadik sat in silence for afew seconds and answered.
"In fact I do know whatPolish prison is like.. I once was a prisoner for several months myself. Andsoon you will be also. Now sit down and I'll tell you the story.
"Once I was on the road,traveling from city to city collecting money to redeem kidnapped Jews. It wasthe first night of my journey and I stopped at a roadside inn for the night.
"I paid for a room andaround midnight there was a knock at my door. I was in the middle of learningTalmud before going to sleep so I stood, opened the door and there was theowner of the place with an honorable looking Jew with a white beard and longcoat standing behind him.
"He said that this Jew hadjust come in off the road and, as he had no other beds, wanted to know if heminded if he would put a mattress on my floor and could sleep in my room.
"I agreed, the mattress wasbrought in and the Jew after praying Maariv (the evening prayer) lay down andwent to sleep almost immediately.
"The next morning when Iawoke, the Jew wasn't there. He must have arisen very early and left, so Iwashed my hands, put on my Tallit and Tefillin (prayer shawl and phylacteries)and began to pray the morning prayer.
"Suddenly the door burstopen and there were two huge policemen with a small fellow peeking from behindthem pointing at me and screaming "it's him! It's him! He's the one thatstole everything!"
"They put me in handcuffs,pushed me to the ground and began searching the room. There wasn't much tosearch and after a few seconds they came up with a silver spoon that was undermy bed. The little fellow snatched it and began screaming it was his and I wasthe thief where was the rest.
"It wasn't hard to figureout what happened. The fellow that came the previous night must have been thethief and he planted the spoon there so they would accuse me and stop searchingfor him. But my protests fell on deaf ears.
"I was taken to the jail,given a two minute trial, sentenced to ten years imprisonment and taken to alarge, crowded, filthy, cold jail cell.
"No sooner did the policemanlock the door and leave the premises than all the prisoners surrounded me andone stepped forward.
"He looked much more like abeast than a human, in fact all of them did, and it was difficult to look atany of them in the face. "Okay Jew!" He said to me with a sneeringsmile missing several teeth.
"'If you want to be one ofus then it will cost you. You have to give us sixteen rubles. Sixteen, do youhear! One for each of us and two for me'. With each word he put his face closerto mine and spoke more quietly until the last words were a whisper. "Andif not.. you're a dead man.'
"I answered calmly that Ihad no money and in any case I didn't want to be one of 'them' and I wasn'tafraid of him. only of G-d.
"Suddenly he pulled out aniron pole from somewhere, the others grabbed me, pushed me to the ground andheld me fast while he raised it in the air to kill me. But a miraculous thinghappened.
"Suddenly he began screamingin pain. HaShem made a miracle and his hand became paralyzed in mid air and theiron pole became red hot. It was burning and sizzling but he couldn't let go ofit. He sank to his knees and began rolling around on the ground in pain but everyonewas afraid to help him because they were afraid they might get burntthemselves.
"In any case, the guardsheard the commotion, came running in and took him out and he was never seenagain. But after that everyone in the cell left me alone. Even the guardstreated me differently and began to bring me potatoes because they knew Iwouldn't eat the jail food.
"Then, a strange thinghappened. I noticed that one of the prisoners, a young fellow, kept staring atme.
"At first I just ignored himbut after a few days when we were alone he got up the courage to approach me.
He said that the day I entered and he heardthem call me a Jew he couldn't stop thinking about it. He said that when he wasyoung his mother had told him that he was a Jew but he didn't know what itmeant. And now he wanted to know.
"He told me that his parentsdied when he was young and somehow a band of gypsies picked him up. Theyimmediately saw that he was quick and smart so they taught him to be a horsethief and he succeeded. But he was too clever for his own good and hisoverconfidence led to his eventual capture and sentence to thirty years inprison.
"But now when he heard themcalling me Jew and he saw the miracle with the iron pole he knew there wassomething big missing from his life. He wanted to know what it was.
"I explained that we areG-d's people and we have to be good examples. I put Tefillin on him for thefirst time in his life and he cried like a baby.
"In the next few months Itaught him how to read, how to pray and even how to begin to learn Torah; andhe caught on like a fish to water.
Then, one night I had a dream; Avery real dream. Elijah the prophet came to me and told me that I should tellthe boy that tomorrow night he would lead us out of the prison.
"That next morning I toldthe boy and sure enough, the next evening Elijah appeared, but this time not ina dream; in the real world! He opened our cell door and told us to follow him.He took us through a labyrinth of halls past sleeping guards and through metaldoors that he miraculously opened, until we were out.
"That boy is now a greatRabbi in a European town and the whole reason I was put into prison was to savehim……. and to tell you the story today.
You see, those people whoslandered you did it because G-d wanted them to. You also have a reason to bein prison. I don't know what it is…… butI'm sure that a few months should be enough to get your job done.
This answers our questions.
Although Yosef's success waserased by the Egyptian exile the details of his life are important because theycome to teach us that EVERY detail of life, every life, is really important.Just as every detail of the Shpala Zaidi's jail story was important; becauseevery detail was a step toward and was transformed to blessings.
But just as the Shpola Zaidi justdidn't see this until he transformed the 'gypsy boy' and again when hereassured the accused Beryl so we also won't know the meaning of EVERY detailof our lives ..until Moshiach is finally revealed.
And that is why Moshiach will notcome from Yosef.
The book 'Tanya' explains thatMoshiach will come as a result of our deeds and intentions. (Chapt. 36-37)
Yosef in Hebrew means to 'grow'or 'increase' and symbolizes human achievement and success. These, although important,are not ESSENTIAL for a real meaningful life that will bring Moshiach.
The essence of a real life isrepresented by Yehuda (Yehuda. is the source of the word JEW; 'Yehudi') whichmeans thanks, submission and humility before the truth.
This can be gotten by learningand doing the Torah together with the teachings of Chassidut which increase ourunderstanding and value of the Creator while convincing us how important onedeed in this world can be.
If we adopt this attitude ofYehuda then every aspect of life, especially the 'service' of G-d will befilled with joy, blessing and meaning.
Then even one more good deed,word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring……
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