After the incident of מכירת יוסף, the Torah interrupts with the story of Yehuda and Tamar, which begins with Yehuda going to find a wife. On the Pasuk ויט עד איש עדולמי וכו', the Medrash says the following:
רב שמואל בר נתן פתח (ירמיה כט) כי אנכי ידעתי את המחשבות, שבטים היו עסוקים במכירת יוסף ויוסף עסוק בשקו ובתענותיו וכו' ויהודה עסק ליקח אשה והקב"ה היה עוסק ובורא אורה של משיח.
The Rebbe, ר' שמחה בונם מפרשיסחא asks how could it be that while the brothers were עוסק in צום וצעקה לה' because of the מכירה and Yaakov was mourning for his son, Yehuda was looking for a wife? The explanation is that a person needs to be able to live with his past but not in his past. The feeling of regret and remorse must have their place but then a person must be able to move forward and do what needs to be done. Yehuda was experiencing all the feeling that his brothers were feeling but he strengthened himself to continue on and do what needed to be done and he decided to start from the beginning and start with the first Mitzvah in the Torah of פרו ורבו.
This same idea can be found in the Yerushalmi at the end of מסכת פאה. The Yerushalmi brings a story with Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish illustrating the point that צריכין אנו להחזיק טובה לרמאין because if not for them, then people would have to give Tzedakah to every person who stuck their hand out. Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish were on their way to חמי טבריא when a beggar asked for money. They responded that they will give him money when they return. When they returned, they found the beggar dead. They said הואיל ולא זכינין ביה בחייו ניטפל ביה במיתותיה. When they started the Tahara process, they found a pouch filled with gold coins. On face value, the behavior of Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish seems insensitive. It seems as if they had no remorse that the beggar died because they delayed in giving him Tzedakah, because their only response was if we weren’t merited to deal with him in his lifetime, let us deal with him במיתותיה. But the idea is as mentioned above that a person must deal with the task at hand and he can’t be overcome by guilt and regret which cripples him from doing what needs to be done. Just because Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish immediately began the Tahara doesn’t take away from the way they felt, rather it was what needed to be done at that moment and they were able to put guilt and remorse in its proper place in order that they could continue on with what needed to be done.
The same idea is expressed in the following Medrash. The מדרש רבה in בראשית by the עץ הדעת says as follows:
ועתה פן ישלח ידו, א"ר אבא בר כהנא מלמד שפתח לו הקדוש ברוך הוא פתח של תשובה, ועתה, אין ועתה אלא תשובה, שנאמר (דברים י) ועתה ישראל מה ה' אלהיך וגו'
People mistakenly think that Teshuva is harping on the past. But really the first step of Teshuva is to live in the now and make a fresh and new beginning. To live today as if it’s the first day of your life, and to not be enslaved and held back by one’s past. Only after he does all this can he then deal with the past in terms of repenting for the past and learning from the mistakes of the past. But as long as he doesn’t establish the now first, then he will just be repeating the past over again. A person must first tear himself away from the past and establish a new now and only then can he reflect on the past.
The idea of ועתה being a לשון of תשובה, even though it seems ironic because Teshuva is about the past and ועתה is about the now, is because the first step is to tear the now away from the past. Only once a person establishes the now could he then reflect on the past.
וימצאהו איש והנה תעה בשדה וישאלהו האיש לאמר מה תבקש (לז,טו)
When Yosef goes looking for his brothers, he gets lost and meets an איש. The אבן עזרא says that this איש was a random person but according to Rashi, it was מלאך גבריאל. In last week’s Parshah, the שרו של עשו was also referred to as איש. Depending on a person’s agenda, he can be a איש who is שרו של עשו, but if he is coming to help, then he can be גבריאל. But the whole mention of Yosef getting lost and this איש giving him direction seems a bit strange and unnecessary to mention.
The Ramban gives an explanation as to why the Torah discusses this incident. The first explanation is to show that many things happened to Yosef which should have caused him to turn back. But nevertheless he continued because לכבוד אביו.
The second explanation is as follows:
ולהודיענו עוד, כי הגזרה אמת והחריצות שקר, כי זמן לו הקדוש ברוך הוא מורה דרך שלא מדעתו להביאו בידם. ולזה נתכוונו רבותינו (ב"ר פד יד) באמרם כי האישים האלה הם מלאכים, שלא על חנם היה כל הסיפור הזה, להודיענו כי עצת ה' היא תקום
The idea is that many times people have thoughts about how things should go and turn out, but it’s really Hashem pulling the strings and taking control of the ultimate outcome.
וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביו בארץ כנען
The following was said from the Rav’s father.
The previous Parshah ends with all the אלופי עשו and our Parshah begins with the תולדות יעקב being עשו. Rashi quotes the following משל:
הפשתני הזה נכנסו גמליו טעונים פשתן, הפחמי תמה אנה יכנס כל הפשתן הזה, היה פיקח אחד משיב לו ניצוץ אחד יוצא ממפוח שלך ששורף את כולו, כך יעקב ראה כל האלופים הכתובים למעלה, תמה ואמר מי יכול לכבוש את כולן, מה כתיב למטה (פסוק ב) אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף, דכתיב (עובדיה א יח) והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש, ניצוץ יוצא מיוסף שמכלה ושורף את כולם)
But the משל is difficult to understand because the פשתני wants to stay by the פחמי with his פשתן and not burn it so what was the major advice from this פקח who suggested that he burn his פשתן in order for there to be room for him to stay by the פחמי?
The reason why פשתן ignites and catches so easily is because its full of air, as opposed to a solid, such as piece of wood, it doesn’t ignite instantly. Therefore, the פקח was not suggesting for the פשתני to burn his פשתן rather it was just a ראיה to show that it’s only air because things full of air ignite easily, and therefore it can be condensed and pressed down in order to fit by the פחמי. According to this, the נמשל to Yaakov and the אלופי עשו is not that the masses of עשו can easily be killed and destroyed because that’s not necessarily our interest. However, the message is that although they seem large in number, it’s all just air and they are easily able to be condensed and pushed down. As Jews, we understand that it’s not about the numbers and if we would try to win as numbers, we wouldn’t succeed because we are מעט מכל העמים. But rather it’s about the quality and that is what Jews bring to the table. This is really the message of Chanukah that it was רבים ביד מעטים because the small amount of quality was able to defeat the large numbers. The Gemara in Brachos 9b says קהלא קדישא דבירושלים and Reb Nissim Gaon says this קהלא was just three people. We see from here that something small but of high quality can be referred to a קהלא.
Similarly, the חובות הלבבות in שער היחוד פרק ו says כי המעט הזך הוא רב והרב בלתי זך הוא מעט, ואין בו תועלת. Therefore, it’s more important to recognize the importance of the small and the few of quality than the more without quality.