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Parashat Vayigash

Dedicated in Honor of Rabbi Amram Sananes by Sonny Chera

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 except for Binyamin’s. He told the servant to hide his silver goblet in Binyamin’s bag, 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 Binyamin’s possession.

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 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 Teshuvah

Menashe brought the brothers back to Yosef’s palace to face the consequences, where 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.”

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 lost one son, and they could not return without Binyamin, his youngest son, because this will bring him to his grave. Yehuda begged Yosef to let him stay as a slave instead of Binyamin!

After listening to Yehuda’s plight, Yosef finally made the decision to reveal his identity. He saw that his brothers did sincere teshuvah by not abandoning Binyamin as they had abandoned Yosef. The mark of true teshuvah is being in the same situation that provoked a sin previously but succeeding without a sin this time instead.

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 Binyamin 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 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 (4b)!”

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, “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 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 “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 must know that everything that happens to us is part of Hashem’s master plan. Yosef was sold by his brothers as a slave and then imprisoned in Egypt for a crime he did not commit. He was at the bottom of the food chain, his lowest point. With faith in Hashem’s plan and no grudge against his brothers, Hashem rewarded him. As we learned last week, Hashem brought salvation for Yosef k’heref ayin—in the blink of an eye, and in a matter of hours Yosef was elevated to become viceroy of Egypt and second-in-command to Pharaoh!

Hashem rewards and punishes measure for measure. There is always Divine Justice. There was a Ukrainian leader named Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who directed an uprising that led to the death of almost 100,000 Jews. In one particular town, Khmelnytsky and his Cossacks burned, slaughtered, and murdered Jewish people without mercy, destroying their homes and taking everything they owned. The Germans marched into the town in 1941 with Khmelnytsky’s blessing, and gathered hundreds of Jewish men, women, and children to the town’s shul and shot them all in cold blood. Years later, Hashem punished the townspeople for their despicable actions. The town was Chernobyl, and that very shul was the site of the famous nuclear power plant disaster that killed thousands of people.

During World War II, the ambassador in the Japanese Consulate of Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, was known to disagree and condemn everything Hitler and the Nazis stood for. He spent 18-20 hours a day handwriting visas for Jewish people to “pass through” Japan, jeopardizing his life and that of his wife and children. He ignored his supervisors’ orders and wrote 6,000 illegal visas for the Jewish people, most of which belonged to heads of households who took their wives and children with them. There is a famous incident where he was seen on a moving train frantically throwing blank pieces of paper out of the windows that were stamped with the seal of the Consulate and his signature, so the refugees would be able to forge the visas themselves. He saved a countless amount of Jewish people. Years later, Hashem repaid him for his unfathomable kindness. Chiune Sugihara is honored and recognized in Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. And to this day, the Sugihara family owns 60% of the stock of Mitsubishi from a “lucky” investment years before.

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 be when Hashem reveals himself to the world through the coming of the Mashiah. Then the blindfolds will be lifted from our eyes and all our questions will be answered! Only then will we truly comprehend everything that has transpired throughout our lives. It is important to stay true to Torah and Hashem, and Divine Justice will prevail.

Ha’Od Avi Hai

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 commentators ask if Yaakov had been the constant focus of the brothers' responses, meaning he is clearly alive, why does Yosef ask “Ha’od avi hai?”

Rabbi Frand told a story about a troubled student who had an interesting interpretation for Yosef’s question. He told his teacher, “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?’”

Unfortunately, in our society some children do not receive the love they need. Their parents are too busy working long hours or using their phones to have time for their children. Some parents think love is giving their child a fancy car for their 17th birthday. This is not love. Love is spending time with your children, teaching them Torah to inspire them and grow with them. This brings us to this week’s historical 13th Siyum Hashas event at MetLife Stadium, which celebrated the completion of the Talmud in seven and a half years. Daf Yomi is a great opportunity to build a learning experience with your children to grow in Torah together and build an everlasting bond which will enhance your family, your relationships, and a legacy to link the generations!

May we realize that when things in our lives don’t always work out as we might have planned or wished, Hashem is setting the stage for something much better for us. May we be able to make a true teshuvah, succeeding and passing our tests from Hashem that we may have failed previously. 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, Yitzchak and Yaakov, so that we may see the coming of the Mashiah in our days! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

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?


  • When the goblet was found in Binyamin’s possession, the brothers were shocked and ripped their garments. They realized they were being punished midda k’neged midda—measure for measure.

  • The mark of true teshuvah is being in the same situation that provoked a sin previously but succeeding without a sin this time instead. Yosef saw that his brothers did sincere teshuvah by not abandoning Binyamin as they had abandoned him.

  • Yosef did not harbor any resentment or hold a grudge towards his brothers for selling him as a slave. We may feel sometimes that we have been dealt a bad hand when we are slighted or taken advantage of, but we must know that everything that happens to us is part of Hashem’s master plan.

Le’ilui Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

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