top of page

Parashat Vayigash

Leilui Nishmat Nissim Ben Sulha By David Shweky

Parashat Vayigash

Midda K’neged Midda

Last week’s parasha ended with Yosef instructing his servant to place food and money in the sacks of all his brothers apart from Benyamin. He told the servant to hide his silver goblet in Benyamin’s sack, and then seal all the sacks. Yosef sent his son Menashe to chase after the brothers and say to them: “Why do you repay evil for good?”

Of course the brothers denied that they had stolen anything, and they all willingly lowered their bags to be searched. They started with the eldest and ended with the youngest, and so the goblet was found in Benyamin’s sack.

The brothers were shocked and ripped their garments. The midrash explains that they realized that they were being punished midda k’neged midda — measure for measure. By bringing Yosef’s blood-stained coat to their father Yaakov twenty-two years earlier, they had caused their father to rip his garment in grief. Now it was their own garments that they tore.

True Teshuva

Menashe brought the brothers back to Yosef’s palace to face the consequences. Now all eleven brothers bowed down to Yosef. According to Midrash Tanchuma, Yosef’s dream of the eleven bowing stars was hereby fulfilled.

Yehuda spoke up and said, “What can we say, how can we justify ourselves? G-d has uncovered our sin, so we are all ready to be your slaves, both we and the one in whose hand the goblet has been found.”

Yosef replied, “It would be sacrilegious for me to do this. Only the one in whose possession the goblet was found shall be my slave and as for the rest of you, go up in peace to your father.”

Now in this week’s parasha, the story continues. Yehuda approached Yosef and said, “Please, my lord, let now your servant speak something into my lord’s ears, and let not your wrath be kindled against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh.”Yehuda told Yosef the whole story in private: How they have an old father who had lost one son, and they could not return without Benyamin, his youngest son, because this will bring him to his grave. So Yehuda begged Yosef to let him stay as a slave instead of Benyamin!

After listening to Yehuda’s plight, Yosef finally made the decision to reveal his identity. He saw that his brothers did sincere teshuva by not abandoning Benyamin as they had abandoned Yosef. The mark of true teshuva is being in the same situation that you were when you previously sinned, but this time avoiding the sin.

What’s Our Excuse?

Yosef revealed himself and spoke the famous words to his brothers: “ani Yosef ha’od avi hai? — I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?”

What was Yosef asking them? Didn’t he just hear Yehuda say that he can’t take Benyamin away from their father Yaakov because the shock would kill him?

What Yosef was really doing here was rebuking his brothers, as if to say, “Oh, now you’re worried about my father? What about selling me to the Ishmaelites twenty-two years ago, and for all that time, you let my father believe that I was dead?”

In Masechet Hagiga (4b), we are told that when Rav Eliezer came to this passuk, he wept and said “Now if the rebuke of flesh and blood is such [that it causes so much embarrassment], how much more so will be the rebuke of Hashem!”

In other words, what will we say when Hashem will ask us, “Did you spend your days learning Torah?” What will we answer? “I couldn’t get up so early?” And then Hashem will ask us, “Oh, but what about the time when you had to wake up at 5 a.m. to catch a plane for your business meeting? How were you able to wake up for that?”

Or maybe the yetzer hara will make us say, “I’ll wait until I’m older, when I’ll have more time to learn,” and this will stop us from learning, because when we are old we will be too weak to concentrate. Let us instead make a commitment now, while we’re young. Once we commit ourselves to learning, we will begin to taste the sweetness of Torah, and it will become the most enjoyable experience, especially as we age and have more time to learn. Learning Torah will be great chinuch(training) for us for our older years.

It’s All Part of Hashem’s Plan

Immediately after Yosef revealed who he was in passuk 4, he said to his brothers: “I am Yosef your brother, whom you sold into Egypt, and now, do not be distressed and let it not trouble you that you sold me here for it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you.”

The Ohr HaHayyim Hakadosh asks the obvious question: Why did Yosef repeat himself, and why did he add “I am Yosef your brother whom you sold?” Did he want to make his brothers feel bad for what they had done to him?

On the contrary, the Ohr HaHayyim continues, Yosef did not harbor any resentment or hold a grudge towards his brothers for selling him as a slave. Even at the time that he was sold, Yosef still loved his brothers. Yosef teaches us a very important lesson. We may feel sometimes that we have been dealt a bad hand when we are slighted or taken advantage of, but we have to know that everything that happens to us is part of Hashem’s master plan.

According to the Hafetz Hayyim, when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, everything became clear to them in an instant. That’s how it will it be when Hashem reveals himself to the world through the coming of the Mashiah. Then the blinders will be lifted from our eyes and all our questions will be answered! Only then, will we comprehend everything that has transpired throughout our history.

Learning The Interpretation of a Passuk in the Parasha from a "Turned Off" Student

There’s another interpretation to what Joseph said after he revealed himself to his brothers. When he finally breaks down and says "I am Yosef -- Is my father still alive?" All the commentaries ask an obvious question: the entire dialog between Yosef and his brothers was centered on their father. Yaakov had been the constant focus of Yosef's questions and the brothers' responses. So why does Yosef ask again if his father is still alive?

Rabbi Frand once spoke at a Torah U'Mesorah convention on the topic of "What makes a Great Jewish Educator." One of his sources was the Rambam's comment that a teacher must love his students as if they were his own children. Rabbi Frand pointed out that in previous generations it was perhaps more difficult to understand what it meant for teachers to have to love their students. In our generation, however, we have been given additional insight into this matter.

Unfortunately, in our society parents sometimes do not care about their children. Some children do not receive the love which they need. Their parents are too busy making money by working 12 or 14 hours a day to have time for their children. Some parents think love is giving their child a fancy sports car for their 17th birthday. This is Not love. Love is spending time with your child and being there for them!

Today we have a generation that is simply starving for love. Therefore, children are often looking for love in the classroom. A function that was always provided by the parents -- a pat on the back, or a hug -- now falls to the teacher, because no one is home, literally. Our new insights into the words of the Rambam come to us because we see what children are not receiving at home, and we see what they need. And this is the love that teachers must often provide.

Rabbi Frand then related the following true story, which explains Yosef's question in another way...

There was once a student whose father had deserted his family. This sort of student often causes a lot of problems for a teacher. He was totally "turned off" to everything. The teacher tried to become close to the child. He invited the child over to his house. Nothing helped. The child just sat there in class and did not participate.

As is unfortunately the case with teachers sometimes, the teacher was prepared to write this child off. "Put him in the back of the class; let him just sit there. Hopefully he will absorb some of what is being taught. I gave it my best shot, there is nothing more I can do." And so that is what the teacher did.

For about half the year, the child just sat and 'vegetated'. Finally the class started Parashat Vayigash. They learned the dialog between Yosef and the brothers. Then they learned the verse "I am Yosef -- is my father still alive?" The Rabbi asked our question to the students -- “what does Yosef mean by this question?”

This child from the back of the classroom, the one who had not participated for half the year, raised his hand and gave this incredibly poignant interpretation: "Yosef is saying, 'I know that YOUR father is still alive, but is MY father still alive? Has my father given up on me? I have been away from home; I have been in a strange land for 22 years; is MY father still alive? Do I still have a father who cares about ME?'"

That child was not only asking Yosef's question. He was asking his own question. Sometimes we have children who in different ways and in different forms are asking "Is my father still alive?" "Does my father still care about me?"

We as parents and teachers must pay attention to questions like that!

May we realize that when things in our lives don’t always work out as we might have planned or wished, it would as Hashem is setting the stage for something much better for us. May we also listen and pay attention to our children and students who are starving for attention that they truly deserve and need for their proper upbringing. Also, to make time to sit and learn Torah with our children and grandchildren, thereby following in the ways of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov, so that we may see the coming of the Mashiah in our days! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· Did we ever see how when our plans “went wrong,” things ended up working out for the better?

· Do we pay enough attention to our children or do we leave them crying out for the attention and

the love that they are longing for?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal

Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel

Yaakov Ben Leah

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

"Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah L'ilui Nismat or Refuah Shelemah or

In Honor of someone, can email me at that information."

Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”)

Single post: Blog_Single_Post_Widget
bottom of page