Parashat Vayigash

Establishing a fixed place dedicated to Torah study

ואת‭ ‬יהודה‭ ‬שלח‭ ‬לפניו‭ ‬אל‭ ‬יוסף‭ ‬להורות‭ ‬לפניו‭ ‬גשנה

Establishing a fixed place dedicated to Torah study

After a tumultuous roller-coaster of events, Yosef’s brothers returned to Canaan and informed Yaakov him that his beloved son Yosef, whom he had assumed was dead for 22 years, was in fact alive and prospering in Egypt. Astonished by the remarkable turn of events, Yaakov and his family undertook the lengthy journey to Egypt in order to be reunited with Yosef.

Rashi writes that as they approached their destination, Yaakov sent Yehuda ahead to establish a bait medrash (house of study), where he would be able to study and disseminate Torah. This is difficult to understand. Yaakov and his sons were certainly involved in learning Torah throughout their journey to Egypt, as Rashi writes (45:24) that prior to sending his brothers back to Yaakov, Yosef had to warn them not to become too deeply engrossed in Torah study, which could cause them to get lost. If so, shouldn’t Yaakov have first focused on reuniting with Yosef and comfortably settling his family into their new homes, especially in light of his advanced age and all that had recently transpired?

Rav Nissan Kaplan of Yeshivat Mir in Yerushalayim explains that Yaakov understood that learning Torah day and night is insufficient. A person also needs a Bait medrash, a fixed placed designated for the sole purpose of toiling in Torah study. He recounts that when one of his sons became Bar Mitzvah, he took him to visit an old Jew in Far Rockaway named Mr. Talansky and asked him if he had any advice for his son upon this momentous occasion.

Mr. Talansky responded that decades earlier, as he was driving to Lakewood, he noticed that he passed many exits along the highway. Each exit led to a town, and virtually every one of these towns had a large shul with a dedicated Rav and many members, yet years later, nothing remains of these shuls, and most of these towns no longer have a sizeable observant Jewish community.

The cities of Lakewood and Far Rockaway were different, because in addition to shuls, they also had high schools for boys, where the local teenagers were able to study the words of Abaye and Rava. The schools were run by Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yechiel Perr, and although they did not have many students in those days, their existence ensured that their respective communities thrived and blossomed, and over time they became world-renowned bastions of Torah, while the other cities in between lie bereft of their former glory. This is the lesson of Yaakov, who taught future generations that mitzvah observance and even Torah study in a vacuum are not enough to ensure Jewish continuity, which can only be safeguarded by establishing a fixed place dedicated to Torah study.

facts of life: take this serious

Planting the Seeds / Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

There is a famous saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It is not just an adage. Children develop habits and attitudes based on what they see in their homes. The way a parent reacts to situations is most probably the way a child is going to react. There are many examples of this throughout the Torah. For example the Torah (Breishit: 34, 1) describes Dina as “bat Leah” instead of bat Yaakov. Rashi explains that Dina went out into the street to see what was doing, as she learned this conduct from her mother who also went out to greet Yaakov (See Breishit 30-16).

When Yosef reveled himself to his brothers he sent everyone out of the room so as not to embarrass them. He also made another huge sacrifice. He arranged never be alone with Yaakov Avinu, for the remaining 17 years of his life, so as not to be put in a situation where he might tell his father about what really happened. Imagine! Yosef spent the first 17 years of his life constantly next to his father learning everything that Yaakov learned in Yeshivat Shem Vaver, and then was separated for the next 22 years alone in Egypt. He now has the opportunity to rekindle his relationship by learning once again, alone, back with his father.

However Yosef does not! Instead, he deprives himself of that privilege in order to ensure his brothers dignity. Just so Yaakov would not ask him, “What Happened?”

Where did he get this mind set, to sacrifice so much opportunity in order to spare someone from embarrassment? I would like to suggest that he gleaned it from his mother Rachel. In her magnanimous concern for her sister’s dignity, Rachel gave over the secret signs she had arranged with Yaakov. By doing so she potentially forfeited her chance to marry Yaakov Avinu and build the Jewish nation. However, she made a decision that the honor of her sister was of took precedence, even if it meant giving up on something she very much wanted. Yosef made this same decision, and he gave up the possibility of learning much Torah from his father for the sole reason of being concerned with his brother’s dignity. Here we see a powerful example of the affect our attitude has on our children.

By Torah Treat 

Speak from the bottom of your heart, and make yourself heard!!

When Yehuda decides to argue with the Egyptian viceroy (who was really his brother Yosef) to not take Binyomin as a slave, the Torah states:

“And Yehuda approached Yosef and he said, ‘Please my master, allow your servant to speak in the ears of my master and do not become angry at your servant for you are like Pharaoh.’ ” (Genesis 44:18)

Yehuda was under the impression that this Egyptian leader (Yosef) did not understand Hebrew since he used an interpreter. Why then did Yehuda ask to speak in his ears?

The late Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk in yerushalyim, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soleveichik, explained this in two ways.

The first explanation: even though Yehuda thought Yosef did not understand the language he was speaking, he wanted him to hear the depth of feeling behind his words. Even if one does not speak the language, sincerity will come through. “Words that come from a person’s heart enter the heart of the listener.”

This happened to the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, while speaking to a high government official in Russia to remove a harmful decree against the Jewish people. Even before the interpreter translated the Chofetz Chaim’s words from Yiddish, the listener said that no translation was necessary. He understood the language of feeling that permeated each word that came from a pure heart.

Rabbi Soloveichik’s second insight: when you try to influence someone, it is imperative that he be open to what you have to say. If a person is close-minded and has made up his mind not to pay attention to you, nothing you say will influence him. You can give all kinds of rational arguments for your position, but the person will be as if deaf. Therefore, Yehuda asked Yosef to at least give him a fair hearing. “Keep your ears open to the possibility that what I will say has merit.”

These two ideas are important to keep in mind when trying to impact someone. Speak with sincerity. When you speak from the bottom of your heart, your words have tremendous force and power. Secondly, make certain that the other person is open to hearing what you have to say. For instance, you might start by saying, “If what I say makes sense, are you willing to change your mind?”

By:  Benjamin A Rose


something to think about

Now or never / Focus on the present

In this week’s parsha, Yosef revels himself to his brothers and then tries to console them regarding the events which led up to this meeting. He tells them not to worry, that it was all min hashamyim. Yosef says “and now don’t be depressed”. There is a saying that is said in the name of Rabbis which says ‘the past is gone, the future isn’t here yet, and the present will be gone in the blink of an eye, so why worry’. This concept is alluded to in what Yosef said to his brothers. If you focus on the now there is no reason to get depressed. This is really an good advice for everyone to avoid getting B’atzvus(Sadness) . Focus on the present. Don’t dwell on the past because it is done already. To worry about the future is also counterproductive, because maybe it will be better. Therefore, you are left with the present and that could change in the blink of an eye.


simcha corner

A rabbi, a Hindu priest, and a politician went hiking. Night fell and they were exhausted. The hotel on the map was nowhere to be seen.

They knocked on the door of a farm and asked if they could spend the night.

The farmer said, “Of course, but I only have a small room with two beds. One of you will have to sleep in the barn.”

 The Hindu priest said, “I need no material comforts. I will gladly take the barn.”

The rabbi and the politician were settling in when they heard a knock on the door. They opened it to find the Hindu priest standing there.

“So sorry, my friends, but there is a cow in the barn, and I cannot sleep beside such a holy animal.”

The rabbi said, “No problem, my brother. I’ll take the barn.

The Hindu priest and the politician were settling in when they heard a knock on the door. They opened it to find the rabbi standing there.

“So sorry, my friends, but there’s a pig in the barn, and I can’t sleep beside such a filthy animal.”

The politician said, “OK, let it be remembered that I sacrificed my comfort for the greater good.”

The rabbi and the Hindu priest were settling in when they heard a knock on the door. They opened it to find the pig and the cow standing there.


Parsha Summary 

1st Aliya: Yehuda confronts Yosef in the aftermath of the stolen trophy. Yehuda reviews the past events, starting from Yosef’s suspicious interest in their family.

2nd Aliya: Yehuda’s final plea, that he would remain a slave instead of Binyamin, triggers Yosef to reveal himself. Yosef tones down his brother’s shock and obvious shame by explaining to them the hidden hand of Hashem in all that had occurred.

3rd Aliya: Yosef instructs his brothers to bring Yaakov and the rest of the family to Egypt. Pharaoh, having heard the news of the brother’s arrival, confirms Yosef’s offer.

4th Aliya: Yosef sends provisions and transportation for Yaakov’s entire household. Yaakov is told of Yosef being, “alive and well and ruling the land of Egypt”.

5th Aliya: Yaakov wishes to see Yosef, but first asks Hashem for instructions. Hashem reassures Yaakov that the time of slavery and nationhood has begun, and that he must go to Mitzrayim. The 70 direct descendants of Yaakov are counted.

6th Aliya: Yaakov and Yosef reunite after 22 years. Five of the brothers and Yaakov are presented to Pharaoh. Yaakov blesses Pharaoh. The year is 2238.

7th Aliya: The remainder of the Parsha is a flashback to the two years preceding Yaakov’s arrival. Yosef’s master plan for reconfiguring Egyptian society is detailed. Yosef follows the broad outline of his advice to Pharaoh regarding the administration of the 7 years of plenty. The famine must have been of enormous intensity for Yosef to accomplish his plan in just two years. Although the people “sell” themselves to Pharaoh in order to get food, Yosef’s plan maintains their sense of dignity and independence.