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 Parshas Vayigash - Vol. 5, Issue 11
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayomer Yosef el echav ani Yosef ha’od avi chai v’lo yach’lu achiv la’anos oso ki niv’halu mi’panav (45:3)

When Yosef’s brothers came to Egypt to purchase food during the years of famine, he was able to recognize them immediately, but after 22 years of separation, they were unable to identify him. As a result, he was able to subject them to a dramatic and frightening series of events. After accusing them of being spies, he incarcerated Shimon to force them to return with his maternal brother Binyomin. After confusing them by inviting them to join with him at a banquet, Yosef had his goblet planted in Binyomin’s sack to frame him for stealing.

Finally, when Yehuda pleaded for mercy, explaining how much their father Yaakov would suffer if they failed to return with his beloved Binyomin, Yosef was unable to hold himself back anymore. He ordered all of his Egyptian officers and servants out of the room and revealed his true identity to his brothers, telling them, “I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?”

The Medrash understands (Bereishis Rabbah 93:10) Yosef’s words not as a factual question, but rather as an implicit rebuke of his brothers. The Medrash derives from their inability to answer him a lesson regarding how great our shame and embarrassment will be when Hashem Himself rebukes us in His Heavenly Court. However, many commentators struggle to understand exactly where the censure lies in Yosef’s words, which on the surface appear to be a simple question about his father’s welfare.

The Beis HaLevi explains that Yehuda had been begging for mercy on behalf of Binyomin as a result of the unfathomable suffering that his imprisonment would cause to their father Yaakov. Yosef therefore subtly reminded his brothers of their utter lack of concern for Yaakov’s well-being when they sold him as a slave, thereby demonstrating the contradiction in their actions and calculations, an argument to which they had no answer.

The following amusing story represents a modern-day application of this concept. There was once a yeshiva student who was scheduled to fly home to visit his family. A few hours after setting out for the airport, he returned to the yeshiva. He explained to his confused Rosh Yeshiva that he had arrived late to the airport and missed his flight, to which the Rosh Yeshiva happily exclaimed, “Boruch Hashem!” Now it was the boy’s turn to be confused.

The Rosh Yeshiva explained that every day the boy came late to prayers, to his studies, and to class. He worried that when the boy would eventually pass away he would be asked about his tardiness, to which he would answer that he simply had a difficult time with punctuality. At that point he would be shown that when something was important to him, such as making a flight home, he had no problem arriving on time, and his defense would be contradicted and rejected. Now, however, the Rosh Yeshiva rejoiced, because the boy also arrived late to the airport, and while his attendance record in yeshiva was far from exemplary, at least his defense would remain intact.

There will also come a time when Hashem will similarly judge us. We think that when we are asked why we didn’t give more charity or spend more time studying Torah, we will defend ourselves by invoking our lack of extra funds and free time. Hashem will then remind us of all of the frivolous luxuries for which we had no difficulty finding money, and of all of the thousands of hours we wasted over the course of our lives involved in trivial nonsense, which will leave us speechless and humiliated to the core.

The lesson of Yosef’s rebuke of his brothers is that we should make sure to expend at least as much effort on our spiritual affairs as we do on physical matters. The same efforts that we make in trying to maximize the return on our investments or planning a trip in great detail to maximize our enjoyment should also carry over to matters of the soul, as we devote the same energy to our efforts at improving the returns on our spiritual portfolio and to getting the most out of the journey to this world on which our souls have been sent.


Vayipol al tzavrei Binyomin achiv vayeivk u’Binyomin bachah al tzavarav (45:14)

After Yosef revealed his true identity to his brothers, he and Binyomin fell upon each other’s necks and wept. Rashi explains that they were mourning the Holy Temples and Mishkan which would be built in the portions of Israel to be inherited by their descendants which would eventually be destroyed.

There was once an old woman who passed away. In her will, she left instructions to split her estate equally among her grandchildren, except for an additional $10,000 which was to be given to one of her granddaughters on top of her regular portion.

The reason for this preferential treatment was that later in life, the grandmother decided to open up and share with her family her bitter personal story of the travails she endured in surviving the Holocaust. In contrast to the rest of the grandchildren who sat stoically listening, this particular granddaughter cried profusely at the tales of her grandmother’s tortuous pain and suffering. In recognition of her compassion and empathy, the grandmother allotted her more than all of the others.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein derives from here that if a flesh-and-blood grandmother gives additional money as a reflection of the special bond that she feels with the granddaughter who cried upon hearing of her suffering, how much more will Hashem feel connected to us for every tear that we shed over His pain at the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, and how much unfathomable reward will we receive.


Vayomer Yosef el ha’am hein kanisi eschem hayom v’es admaschem l’Paroh hei lachem zera u’zratem es ha’adama (47:23)

Although the literal meaning of Yosef’s words to the Egyptians is “Behold, here is seed for you; sow the land,” the Arizal suggests that Yosef was hinting to a different kind of seed – children. In a play on words, he writes that the reason why the Patriarchs and Matriarchs were barren was because they didn’t have the letter “hay” in their names, which alludes to “herayon” (pregnancy).

Avrom and Sarai were unable to have children as both of their names lacked a “hay.” Hashem added a “hay” to each of their names, turning them into Avrohom and Sorah, who were then able to conceive Yitzchok. Yitzchok also had a difficult time having children, as even though his wife Rivkah had a “hay” in her name, he did not. This is also the reason why Yaakov was able to have children from Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah, all of whom had “hay”s in their names, as opposed to Rochel who had none and therefore was unable to conceive. In an attempt to become pregnant, Rochel gave her maidservant Bilhah to Yaakov, as she hoped that by doing so, she would merit one of the two “hay”s in Bilhah’s name.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     The Medrash teaches (Yalkut Shimoni 151) that Yosef died 10 years prematurely as a punishment for the 10 times that he heard his brothers refer to their father Yaakov as “avadecha” (your servant) and remained silent without correcting them. As the verses which record the conversation mention that they did so only 5 times (43:28, 44:24, 44:27, 44:30, and 44:31), why was Yosef’s punishment doubled? (Peninim MiShulchan HaGra Parshas Mikeitz)

2)     Just prior to sending his brothers back to Yaakov in Canaan, Yosef warned them (45:24) not to become agitated on the journey. According to one of Rashi’s explanations, Yosef was advising them not to travel too quickly by taking large steps, as the Gemora in Taanis (10b) teaches that doing so causes a person to lose 1/500th of his eyesight. What can a person who has done so do as a remedy in order to restore his lost vision? (Rashi Shabbos 113b, Tosefos Pesachim 100b, Mishnah Berurah 271:48)

3)     Rashi writes (46:15) that Levi’s daughter Yocheved was born as Yaakov and his entire family entered Egypt. According to this explanation, she was 130 at the time of Moshe’s birth. Why is no mention made of the miraculous birth of Moshe to such an aged mother as was the case with the birth of Yitzchok to the 90-year-old Sorah? (Ibn Ezra, Ramban)

4)     Which three sets of twins are mentioned explicitly by name in Parshas Vayigash? (Seder Olam 2, Seder HaDoros, HaK’sav V’HaKaballah, Matamei Yaakov Parshas Vayeitzei)

5)     Rashi writes (47:6) that Pharaoh told Yosef that if any of his brothers are capable, he would like them to serve as shepherds for his flock. How can this be reconciled with Rashi’s earlier comment (46:34) that because Egyptians worshipped sheep, they hated shepherds and would insist that because the brothers were shepherds they must live separately? (Moshav Z’keinim 46:34, Ibn Ezra, Maskil L’Dovid)

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