Approaching One’s Self
ויגש אליו יהודה ויאמר בי אדני ידבר נא עבדך דבר באזני אדני (מד,יח)
The Parshah begins with Yehuda bringing his case to Yosef. But what exactly was he saying new? He seems to be merely repeating the story that he and Yosef already knew and therefore what caused Yosef to now open up to the brothers?
One thing that Yehuda did add was that he made himself an ערב as the Pasuk says כי עבדך ערב את הנער מעם אבי אם לא אביאנו אליך (מד,לב). Yehuda calls Binyamin, his father’s בן זקנים, meaning because his brother died, now Binyamin was his father’s בן זקנים. Yosef once was his father’s בן זקנים who his father loved more than the other brothers. Originally when Yosef was the בן זקנים it was ויקנאו בו אחיו and they hated him because of that. But now, Yosef sees that they actually care about their father’s relationship with the בן זקנים because Yehuda is willing to give himself up in order to prevent his father from losing the בן זקנים. When Yehuda added this point in the beginning of Vayigash, Yosef saw that they corrected this חטא that not only were they not hating the בן זקנים but they were putting themselves out for the בן זקנים and that’s why he opened up to them.
But what can really be asked is that when Yehuda is seemingly just repeating everything that happened in Parshas Mikeitz, he adds things that weren’t said and didn’t happen. The things Yehuda says in the beginning of Parshas Vayigash don’t appear in Parshas Miketz. For example Yehuda says that Yosef asked them היש לכם אב או אח but Yosef never asked the brothers such a thing rather they suggested that information on their own without being prompted by Yosef. Yehuda also adds הורדהו אלי ואשימה עיני עליו and לא יוכל הנער לעזב את אביו ועזב את אביו ומת even though these things weren’t actually said in Parshas Miketz. So what exactly going on that Yehuda is now adding all these things as if they were said. Also what does it mean ויגש אליו יהודה if the last two Psukim of Parshas Miketz ends with Yehuda standing and speaking in front of Yosef?
Maybe this could be explained with the שפת אמת תרלו who says that because the Pasuk is written ויגש אליו יהודה and not ויגש יהודה אליו, there is room for explanation as to who Yehuda was approaching. It could be understood that Yehuda was approaching himself, which is the indication of אליו. The Vayigash of Yehuda was him approaching himself. Sometimes, people, especially when they are having an argument, get preoccupied with the factual details and the objective truth. This makes it difficult for people to see eye to eye because objective reality is actually interpreted in a subjective manner and each has their own narrative. When Yehuda is approaching himself, he is letting go of the objective facts and he is being in touch with himself and presenting how what happened was experienced by him. In such a context, even things that weren’t clearly stated like Yosef asking היש לכם אב או אח, nonetheless they felt that question he was begging for. So Yehuda is presenting the story from his place and that is the ויגש אליו יהודה that he is in touch with his vulnerable self and he was saying over the story as was experienced by him.
When a person exposes his vulnerability and his real self, it doesn’t allow for the other person to remain indifferent and distant. Therefore, Yosef also reveals himself because by Yehuda telling over how he experienced it and not the objective reality, such a thing brings people closer. When one presents his experience and himself and disregards the facts, then the other person can present his experience and open up. When one opens up, the other opens up.
Yahrzeit Of Reb Shlomo Eiger
This Shabbos, יא טבת, is the Yahrzeit of Reb Shlomo Eiger, the son of Reb Akiva Eiger. He was born in 1786 in Lisa which was then part of Germany but now is part of Poland and is called Leszno and died in the year 1852. He married the daughter of a wealthy businessman from Warsaw and he was very involved in the family business and they had contracts with Polish government and Polish army. To get a glimpse of the greatness of Reb Shlomo Eiger, that in spite of being in business he was a giant in Torah, one only needs to look in שו"ת רבי עקיבא איגור. In חלק א סימן רכא, there is a letter from Reb Shlomo Eiger to his father and he writes the following:
זה יותר מירח ימים עמד לי דבר לשטנה ללמוד שיעורי עיון, וחזרתי על הלכות הרי"ף ממסכת יבמות ונתקשיתי באיזה מקומות בהבנת דברי הנמוקי גם פעמים הוציאוני רעיוני אל עיון חוציי, כאשר נמשכו הדברים מאיזה מקום ממסכת הנ"ל, אמרתי אנסה נא להציע דברי לפני כסא קדשו דמר אבא מ"ו נ"י אולי יחנני ויחשבני כאחד מתלמידיו הקטנים השואלים תורה מפיהו אשר בטובו לאיש כדרכיו ושאלותיו משיבהו, ובסתום חכמה יודיעהו.
Reb Shlomo Eiger is writing to his father that when he didn’t have the ability to really learn his שיעורי עיון, he reviewed all the Hilchos Rif on Yevamos and he then goes on to write nine pages on the Rif in Yevamos.
In the next Siman, רכב, Reb Akiva Eiger writes to him the following:
בן יקר לי מפנינים, אב בחכמה ורך בשנים הרב רבי שלמה נ"י. חדאי נפשי בדבריך הנעימים בפלפול ישר ובסברא אשר הגיעוני בכורי פרי תנובתך הם אשר הקרבת אלי מאז יצאת מלפני ולמה זה נחבאת בני בדבריך עד היום הלא שמח תשמחני כראותי אותך הולך בשביל השכל הישר בדברי ראשונים נ"ע, כה תחזק במעוזך.
Reb Akiva Eiger is responding to his son saying that this is the first time you are writing to me since you left, referring to his wedding and says why were you hiding all this until now and I see that you are going in path of the Rishonim with שכל הישר. Then Reb Akiva Eiger goes on to answer all his questions.
There is another תשובה to Reb Shlomo Eiger סימן קכו where there is a question about an Agunah and he writes that he totally agrees with the Psak of his son and he writes the following which expresses the extent that he agrees with his son.
ובאתי היום לאשר ולקיים הפסק אשר דן ואשר הורה גבר בגוברין כבוד בני ני' ומסכים אני שתהא אשה זו אחר שתקיים תנאה רשאה להתנסבא לכל גבר דתצבי, ואני גוזר על המערערים שישימו מעתה יד לפה, ואם לא ישמעו ילכדו ומרה יהיה להם באחרונה.
In the Parshah it says וישלח את אחיו וילכו ויאמר אלהם אל תרגזו בדרך (מה,כד) and Rashi says one explanation is אל תתעסקו בדבר הלכה שלא תרגז עליכם הדרך. It’s amazing that after all that had just transpired with Yosef finally revealing himself to the brothers, Yosef would be concerned that on the way home from everything they just experienced, his brothers would be talking in learning. After 22 years of thinking Yosef was dead, they find out not only that he is alive but that he is the second in command in Mitzrayim, and after experiencing that realization Yosef is concerned that his brothers will get into a heated conversation in learning and they’ll lose their way. Such a concern from Yosef is quite astounding.
It must be that by people whose learning is their entire interest and quest, regardless of all the surrounding circumstances, will immediately fall back into the learning mode. That’s why Yosef, even in this situation, needed to tell them אל תרגזו בדרך.
In this context, it’s interesting to note that Reb Shlomo Eiger when he would give a shiur, sometimes other businessman would come in and interrupt the shiur to ask him a question business related. After he answered them, he would continue the shiur from the same word he left off without missing a beat. He didn’t need to be reminded where he had left off. Once, the Rav of Warsaw asked him how he was able to do that. He answered that under his Chupah his father, Reb Akiva Eiger, told him that he knows he will be involved and running a big business so he wanted to give him a Brachah that the moment his business dealings are over he should be able to be back in learning exactly where he left off. (This story is quoted in the Sefer חוט המשולש which talks about the Chassam Sofers family and is considered a reliable source about the Chassam Sofers family.)
This Brachah was not a segulah but the true meaning of the Brachah is that he should be so involved and occupied in learning that no matter what break he has to make, he should automatically be able to find himself where he was. So too by the brothers that Yosef has to tell them not to fall back into learning in spite of everything that had just transpired because such is the nature of people who are so involved and occupied with learning. It was so obvious to him that his brothers would just resort back to where they had left off in learning and therefore he needed to tell them אל תתעסקו בדבר הלכה שלא תרגז עליכם הדרך.
As Soon as Possible but Not Before
Another explanation Rashi says on the Pasuk אל תרגזו בדרך is אל תפסיעו פסיעה גסה והכניסו חמה לעיר. Everything in life is really a balance. Although Yosef told the brothers מהרו ועלו אל אבי, still it needs to be with a balance.
We say in the Hoshanos הושענא נפש מבהלה. זריזות and בהלה are two different things. It says in Parshas Ki Sisa לא תשחט על חמץ דם זבחי ולא ילין לבקר זבח חג הפסח, ראשית בכורי אדמתך תביא בית יקוק אלהיך לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו (לד,כה-כו). The first Pasuk לא תשחט על חמץ דם זבחי means you shouldn’t be too early and the end of the Pasuk ולא ילין, is don’t leave over which is don’t be too late. The next Pasuk says ראשית ביכורי אדמתך that one should bring his first fruits as Bikurim which is the ענין of זריזות. Then the Pasuk concludes לא תבשל גדי בלב אמו even though the Meforshim say that such a mixture was used as fertilizer to make things grow quickly, nonetheless it shouldn’t be done. So we see things should be done as soon as they should be done but not before. Similarly, we see that although יציאת מצרים was בחפזון, nevertheless on ליל פסח we emphasize the importance of סדר because when there is a חפזון there needs to be an emphasis on סדר in order to prevent things from becoming a בהלה.
ולאביו שלח כזאת עשרה חמרים נשאים מטוב מצרים ועשר אתנת נשאת בר ולחם ומזון לאביו לדרך (מה,כג)
On מטוב מצרים, Rashi writes מצינו בתלמוד ששלח לו יין (ישן) שדעת זקנים נוחה הימנו. ומדרש אגדה גריסין של פול. What was the significance of these two things?
If one thinks about the life of Yosef, it’s really incredible how he was able to become who he became after such a series of tragic events. First he was 8 when his mother died as it says in the סדר עולם פרק ב. Then he was hated by his own brothers, and then his father seemingly betrays him by sending him off to his brothers. Then his brothers want to kill him but end up selling him as a slave down to Mitzrayim. Then he gets thrown into prison in Mitzrayim for 12 years. But even there, after having been victimized and suffering such a troubled youth he doesn’t view himself as a victim. Rather he even reaches out to other as he says to the שר המשקים andשר מדוע פניכם רעים היום-האופים. He is able to take an interest in other people. Even more so, the Gemara in Sotah 36b says that when Pharaoh met Yosef, he said גנוני מלכות אני רואה בו, he saw aristocracy within Yosef. How did Yosef maintain a demeanor of aristocracy after all that he experienced? There were two ideas that Yosef always had in mind that allowed him to overcome everything and become who he became. The first message is the meaning behind the גריסין של פול that he sent to his father. The Maharal in Gur Aryeh writes the following:
לפי שהיה יעקב ירא מן הגלות לרדת שם (רש"י להלן מו, ג), כי היה יודע יעקב הגלות שיבא לישראל במצרים, ולפיכך שלח יוסף אליו כי הגלות הוא טוב, כי יהיו ישראל פרים ורבים מכח השעבוד וגלות, כדכתיב (שמות א, יב) “וכאשר יענו אותו כן ירבה וכן יפרוץ”, והיו משעבדים את ישראל בפרך (שם שם יג) המשברת את הגוף (רש"י שם) ומענה אותם, והיו דומים לגריסים ברחיים, שכל זמן שאדם כותש אותם ברחיים הם נשברים לחלקים רבים, ומאחד נעשה ששה, לפיכך שלח לו גריסין של פול. ולשון ‘גריסין של פול’ הם פולים שבורים לחלקים, כדכתיב (איכה ג, טז) “ויגרס בחצץ וגו'”, וכן היה שעבוד מצרים בפרך המשבר את הגוף, וזהו “טוב מצרים”.
The message that Yosef imbibed which he was giving over to Yaakov was the idea that from great difficulty and challenges is where growth takes place. Just like גריסין when crushed up they multiply and grow, so too will be the Jews in Galus Mitzrayim. This message Yosef carried with him that when things get difficult, that is where the main growth happens.
Regarding the יין ישן that Yosef sent, it would seem that it can be wine from Mitzrayim and made by Egyptians because it would be יין נסך or at least סתם יינם. So the Rav suggested that this יין ישן must have been wine that Yosef himself made but had aged. However, Rashi says in Miketz on the Pasuk וישתו וישכרו עמו (מג,לד) that ומיום שמכרוהו לא שתו יין ולא הוא שתה יין so why would Yosef have had wine stored away? It must be that he lived with the message that one day it will all be over and they will be able to celebrate.
These were the two messages, one being that difficult times are what is necessary to facilitate growth and the ability to believe and know that one day it will all be over, that gave Yosef the ability to carry on and become who he became.
Being Seen and Not Seeing
ויאסר יוסף מרכבתו ויעל לקראת ישראל אביו גשנה וירא אליו ויפל על צואריו ויבך על צואריו עוד (מו,כט)
Reb Naftali Trup says that when the Pasuk says וירא אליו, it’s not stressing that Yosef saw his father Yaakov but rather that Yosef was seen to Yaakov. The idea is to show that Yosef wasn’t busy with himself and it wasn’t about him and his needs. Rather he was completely consumed with the needs of his father and he only cared about how he appeared to his father to know that his father’s needs were taken care of.
The same idea is said by the Rebbe Reb Shmelka of Nikolsburg on the Pasuk in Tehillim פרק מב. The second Pasuk says צמאה נפשי לאלהים לאל חי מתי אבוא ואראה פני אלהים. The Pasuk specifically says וְאֵרָאֶה-I shall be seen and not ואראה (with a צירה below the two א’s and שבא below the ר) which means I shall see. The reason is because it’s not about us seeing our creator rather it’s about us being seen by our creator. It is not about us and our needs rather it’s solely about our creator and we are completely consumed in having our creator’s רצון met. Therefore the Pasuk stresses ואראה פני אלוקים because it’s about how we are seen to our creator and now about us seeing him.
In the same vein, Reb Yitzchak Charif, the Rav of Sombor, on the Pasuk before, explains this same idea. The beginning of the Perek begins כאיל תערג על אפיקי מים. The word כאיל is masculine and תערג is feminine. The Pasuk should’ve remained consistent and said either כאילת תערוג or וכאיל יערוג. Rashi points this out and explains that the איל is crying out both as a זכר and as a נקבה. The נקיבה cries out when she is כורעת לילד, and Hashem arranges for a snake to be present to bite her stomach to assist in the birth. The איל is חסידה שבחיות and when there is a need for rain, all the animals come to him and cries out on their behalf.
So Reb Yitzchak Charif asked what happens if while she is in labor, all the animals come to her for her to daven for the rain? So the Pasuk says כאיל תערג על אפיקי מים, that she makes herself like (כ) an איל, meaning like a male who does not need to give birth, and על אפיקי מים, davens for the rain on behalf of the animals.
The Rav suggested that this is the same idea as mentioned above in the next Pasuk ואראה פני אלקים and they go hand in hand. Just like the female deer has the ability to forgo her own needs of needing the snake and she cares for the other animals by davening for them for the rain, so to Dovid HaMelech says צמאה נפשי לאלהים לאל חי מתי אבוא ואראה פני אלהים, that it’s not about us seeing our creator for our our needs rather it’s about us being seen by our creator, for Hashem’s needs to be met.
ויגש אליו יהודה ויאמר בי אדני ידבר נא עבדך דבר באזני אדני (מד,יח)
The Parshah begins with Yehuda bringing his case to Yosef and uses the word ויגש that Yehuda approached. When it comes to the completion of Shemona Esreih, we take three steps backwards which is מדינא דגמרא. But the earliest source we have for the three steps forward that we take at the beginning of Shemona Esreih is from the רוקח brought down by the רמ"א ס' צה. (The Mishna Berura notes that one does not have to first take steps backwards however the מנהג העולם is to first go backwards.) The three steps correspond to the three הגשות in the Torah. The first is ויגש אברהם (בראשית יח,ב) by סדום, ויגש יהודה (שם מד,יח) in our Parshah, and ויגש אליהו (מ"א יח,לו). By Avraham and Eliyahu, it makes sense because those were situations of tefilah, but how does the ויגש by יהודה have to do with tefilah? Parshas Mikeitz ended with Yehuda speaking with Yosef and then Vayigash begins with Yehuda approaching Yosef so what does it mean he was approaching him if he was already standing in front of him? Furthermore, why was Yehuda repeating everything that just happened?
Additionally, there are things Yehuda says in his repetition of what was said in Parshas Mikeitz but if you look back in Parshas Mikeitz, they weren’t said. The first thing is that Yosef asked them היש לכם אב או אח but Yosef never asked the brothers such a thing rather they suggested that information on their own without being prompted by Yosef. Yehuda also adds הורדהו אלי ואשימה עיני עליו and לא יוכל הנער לעזב את אביו ועזב את אביו ומת. So what exactly going on that Yehuda is now adding all these things as if they were said.
Lastly, Yehuda says to Yosef ידבר נא עבדך דבר באזני אדוני, which is seemingly an odd thing to say because where else do people hear from?
Sometimes, a person can say and present something, but he isn’t being heard. People can hear many things but they only choose what they want to listen to. The reason why they aren’t being heard is because the one talking isn’t fully present in their words. The person hasn’t met his real self to then present himself to be heard. In order to be present in what he is saying, he must be in touch with his inner self and then the listener cannot be indifferent. When a person is in touch with himself, he is then present in his words and he is presenting something the way he heard it and experienced it and not the way it was objectively. The שפת אמת says that because the Pasuk is written ויגש אליו יהודה and not ויגש יהודה אליו, there is room for three explanations as to who Yehuda was approaching. One option is that he was approaching Yosef. Another option is that he was approaching himself, which is the indication of אליו. And the last option is that he was approaching Hashem. But all three explanations can be understood as one. The Vayigash of Yehuda was him approaching himself and becoming in touch with himself. Once he became in touch with himself, he was present in his words and he is presenting it the way he heard and not the way it objectively happened because he was presenting it the way he experienced it. Once he was presenting it as such, it was impossible for Yosef to not hear it. Also when a person is in touch with himself, he understands that he is really approaching Hashem because he realizes that it is Hashem who orchestrated everything in his life and brought him to this point to be in front of this specific person. This is how Yehuda’s ויגש was that of approaching himself, Yosef, and Hashem.
This is the idea of tefilah that we go backwards and then three steps forward to return to where we started but this time it’s after a restart and we are coming with a personal approach of self. Once he has gone back and then forth, he be there in the now and only then is he ready to communicate with Hashem. The Baal Shem Tov says that when a person comes to pray, he is בא אל התיבה because he needs to come into the words and only once he is present and in the now is he ready to communicate and be heard.
ויאסר יוסף מרכבתו ויעל לקראת ישראל אביו גשנה וירא אליו ויפל על צואריו ויבך על צואריו עוד (מו,כט)
When Yosef is getting ready to see Yaakov, the Pasuk has five verbs (above). It seems like Yosef was doing everything, but the lack of mention of Yaakov’s activity and movement seems to indicate that he was completely passive and as if paralyzed. What is the Pasuk trying to teach by describing the scene as such?
When the Pasuk says וירא אליו, it’s not stressing that Yosef saw his father Yaakov but rather that Yosef was seen to Yaakov. The idea is to show that Yosef wasn’t busy with himself and it wasn’t about him and his needs. Rather he was completely consumed with the needs of his father and he only cared about how he appeared to his father to know that his father’s needs were taken care of.
The same idea is said by the Rebbe Reb Shmelka of Nikolsburg on the Pasuk in Tehillim פרק מב. The second Pasuk says מתי אבוא ואראה פני אלקים. The Pasuk specifically says וְאֵרָאֶה-I shall be seen and not ואראה (with a צירה below the two א’s and שבא below the ר) which means I shall see. The reason is because it’s not about us seeing our creator rather it’s about us being seen by our creator. It is not about us and our needs rather it’s solely about our creator and we are completely consumed in having our creator’s רצון met. Therefore the Pasuk stresses ואראה פני אלוקים because it’s about how we are seen to our creator and now about us seeing him.
But really a vort from Reb Yitzchak Charif, the Rav of Sombor on the Pasuk before expresses this same idea. The beginning of the Perek begins כאיל תערג על אפיקי מים. The word כאיל is masculine and תערג is feminine. The Pasuk should’ve remained consistent and said either כאילת תערוג or וכאיל יערוג. Rashi points this out and explains that the איל is crying out both as a זכר and as a נקבה. The נקיבה cries out when she is כורעת לילד, and Hashem arranges for a snake to be present to bite her stomach to assist in the birth. The זכר is חסידה שבחיות and when there is a need for rain, all the animals come to him and cries out on their behalf. But what happens if while she is in labor, all the animals come to her for her to daven for the rain? So the Pasuk says כאיל תערג על אפיקי מים, that she makes herself like (כ) an איל, meaning like a male who does not need to give birth, and על אפיקי מים, davens for the rain on behalf of the animals.
The Rav suggested that this is the same idea as mentioned above in the next Pasuk ואראה פני אלקים. We see from here that the female deer has the ability to forgo her own needs of needing the snake and she cares for the other animals by davening for them for the rain.
ויבך על צואריו עוד (שם)
The Pasuk says that Yosef cried on Yaakov but Yaakov wasn’t crying. Rashi brings the medrash that says he was saying קריאת שמע. The מהר"ל asks that if it was time to say shema, then why wasn’t Yosef saying it and if it wasn’t time to say it, then why was Yaakov saying it?
We can say that it was not really the time for shema but it was a unique opportunity for קבלת עול מלכות שמים. The Bach says that when reciting shema, a person should have in mind that he is willing to give up his life and die על קידוש ה'. But before Yaakov saw Yosef, what quality of life did he have that it would be meaningful that he was willing to give up his life for Hashem. At that point his life was very sad and depressing. But now that he was reunited with Yosef, and the Pasuk says ותחי רוח יעקב and Yaakov says אמותה הפעם אחרי ראותי, to now say shema with the thought of giving up his life for Hashem meant something. Now he was able to express his willingness to give up his life, the life that he now had with happiness and satisfaction.
However the simple explanation is that it was the zman for Shema, as Reb Chaim Brisker says, and Yosef already read shema However, Yaakov was פטור from shema up until this point because he was being עוסק in a mitzvah up as we say his going down was אנוס על פי הדיבור. So while he was traveling and coming down to Mitzrayim, he was פטור because he had a ציווי. But once he reached Mitzrayim, he now was obligated so he started to recite shema.
Although this second explanation is seemingly less inspirational, it truly brings out a powerful point about the Jewish people. The Gemara in Brachos 61b records the story of Reb Akiva being burned at the stake shouting out shema as he was being burned. But the Gemara says בשעה שהוציאו את רבי עקיבא להריגה זמן קריאת שמע היה. The fact that the Gemara mentions this point can be to show that Reb Akiva did not respond heroically to the roman onslaught with the declaration of Shema rather it was because it was the זמן. The amazing message of that is that Reb Akiva could careless with what was going on around him and he continued on with his life and stuck to his program. This is the same idea of Yaakov saying Shema at this moment. Even in such a moment with tremendous emotion and excitement when he was being reunited with his son who he hadn’t seen for 22 years, he stuck to his program and recited Shema because it was the זמן. This is the Jewish resilience that we have our program and we do our thing regardless of what is going on around us.
In a sefer about Reb Yaakov Yosef, the first chief rabbi of New York, is printed the דרשות from him. He discusses what it means that Yaakov was ביקש לישב בשלוה. He explains that he wanted to have מנוחת הנפש in order that he can focus his attention on being מחנך his children. But Hashem was קפץ עליו רוגזו של יוסף to show him that the greatest message someone can give to his kids is how to act in the face of adversity. This is the same message as mentioned above that as Jews, we have to be able to stick to our program regardless of what is going on around us.
This powerful message is displayed in a story that happened in the Holocaust that was recorded by someone who witnessed it. In the summer of 1944 when the Germans brought the Jews of Hungary to Auschwitz, there was an overload of Jews. In a short period of time, they transported 500,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Usually, from the cattle car they would go straight to the selection process. But one time, since there was such an overload of people, they just left them by the cattle cars. At that time, it happened to have been Shabbos afternoon so while they were sitting and waiting there, they davened Minchah. These were people who knew what was coming for them, they were smelling the stench of human flesh being burned, and they nevertheless proceeded to daven Shabbos Minchah and says אתה קדוש ושמך קדוש. This is the idea of Jewish resilience.