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.