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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Vayigash

He sent Yehudah ahead of him to Yosef, to prepare ahead of him in Goshen. (46:28)

Rashi interprets the word "l’horos" to mean "to teach." Yaakov sent Yehudah to prepare a makom Torah, a place for Torah study, to lay the foundation for Torah dissemination in Egypt. The Midrash asserts that Yaakov sent Yehudah because he was on good terms with Yosef. Certainly, Yosef would have done everything within his power to assist any emissary of his father. The Midrash implies, however, that it would have been inappropriate to send Yehudah to establish a yeshivah had his relationship with Yosef not been one of total harmony.

This seems difficult to understand. Yehudah was selected because of his incredible capabilities. He was sovereign over the brothers. He reigned over them, not only in terms of physical prowess; he surpassed them intellectually and spiritually as well. He distinguished himself as the most appropriate choice to be the Rosh Yeshivah. Yet, if his relationship with Yosef had been somewhat strained, Yaakov would have passed over him in favor of a less capable individual. The Midrash seems to imply that had there been even a slight rift between Yosef and Yehudah, Yaakov would not have chosen the strongest leader for his yeshiva.

Horav A. Henach Leibowitz, Shlita, infers from this that regardless of the significance of establishing a particular institution, one may not transgress the parameters of derech eretz, good manners. If Yehudah and Yosef were not "getting along," then it would have been inappropriate for Yaakov to send Yehudah--even if the yeshivah would have suffered. Horav Leibowitz adds that this idea only applies in the event that Yosef has a reasonable cause for being upset with Yehudah. If, however, Yosef's reason was something he had purported without justification, it would not have served as an obstacle to establishing a makom Torah under Yehudah's leadership.

We derive from this idea that one may build Torah only upon the foundation of derech eretz and ethics. Apparently, a Torah institution that is not founded on ethical behavior cannot succeed. Certainly one may not attempt to build a Torah institution through methods that are unscrupulous or with funds whose source is questionable. An endeavor or institution whose goal is the pursuit of truth must be founded upon and sustained with truth.

He sent Yehudah ahead of him to Yosef to prepare ahead of him in Goshen. (46:28)

Yaakov sent Yehudah ahead of the family to prepare for their arrival. The Midrash understands the word "l’horos" according to its Hebrew definition, "to teach." Yaakov sent Yehudah to found a yeshivah, a place where their family could study Torah. We infer from Yaakov's action that Torah study takes priority over any other endeavor. When a community is being developed, one must first establish a Torah institution, nurturing its inhabitants spiritually. The commentators address the fact that Yehudah, not Yosef, was chosen to establish the yeshivah, even though Yosef was a distinguished talmid chacham, who had already been in Egypt. The consensus of opinion is that apparently Yehudah was more suited to be the Rosh Yeshivah than Yosef. Some feel that Yosef, as a world leader, would be inclined to inject a degree of secular perspective into the yeshivah’s "mission statement." Survival in galus, exile, requires pure Torah study. Yehudah represents Torah study in its most pristine form.

Horav Avigdor Nebentzhal, Shlita, explains that Yosef was unequivocally a tzaddik. He had remained totally committed to Torah and mitzvos even during his twenty-two year separation from his father. He accorded a greater distinction to politics and the running of the government, however, than to pure Torah study. This is evident from Yosef’s desire that Yaakov place his right hand upon Menashe’s head. Menashe was directly involved with his father in governing Egypt, while Efraim spent his entire day studying Torah. Menashe certainly spent a part of his day immersed in Torah study, but Efraim was totally immersed in it. The establishment of a yeshivah and its spiritual maintenance must be under the leadership of an individual who is exclusively dedicated to Torah study.

We may wonder, if Yehudah represents the ideal, why did Yaakov establish that the basic blessing a father gives his son is "May Hashem make you like Efraim and Menashe"? Why not aspire for the optimal choice--Yehudah? Some commentators suggest that Yaakov foresaw that most of Am Yisrael would not be devoted entirely to Torah study. He, therefore, blessed the masses in such a manner that those who do not have the opportunity to engage in Torah study exclusively, should be as Menashe - who exemplified the ben Torah who was also involved in secular pursuits. Yaakov hoped that the relationship between Efraim and Menash--the son who engaged exclusively in Torah and the son who was also involved in areas of "derech eretz" -- would set the standard for their descendants. He hoped that they would co-exist in harmony with love and respect for one another.

We suggest another idea that might be implied by Yaakov Avinu’s brachah. Yaakov linked Efraim and Menashe together for the express purpose of teaching us that since Efraim is the ideal, we must approach Menashe’s way of life from Efraim’s perspective. In other words, Menashe’s hashkofas ha’chaim, philosophy of life, his dealings in the secular world--his relationship with people, must reflect a Torah view. Menashe should represent the ben Torah in the broader world. This distinction should be evident in every area of his endeavor whether one is like Efraim or like Menashe, Torah must reign supreme in his life and be manifest in his lifestyle.

Perhaps there is another reason that Yaakov selected Yehudah to be the Rosh Yeshivah in Goshen. Yehudah was granted malchus, sovereignty over Klal Yisrael, because of his ability to be "modeh al ha’emes," concede the truth. He did not shy away and blame others, which has lately become a mode of life for so many. He owned up to his responsibility. If he erred, he confessed to his sin, accepting the consequences. An educator, be it a parent, teacher, or Torah scholar, must be able to say that he made a mistake. One who cannot or will not concede his mistakes should not be a mentor--of any sort. Yehudah’s yeshivah, like every yeshivah that has followed after it, was built upon the foundation of emes. The ensuing success of any institution is dependent upon adherence to this standard.

And Yosef gathered all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt. (47:14)

In the Talmud Pesachim 119a, Chazal relate that Yosef buried three treasures in Egypt. One of the treasures was revealed to Korach. The other was revealed to Antoninus of Rome, who was a friend of Rabbi Yehudah Ha’Nasi. The third remains hidden, to be revealed in the future. While many commentators understand the words of Chazal to refer to material wealth, as we know that Korach was an unusually wealthy person, the Yalkut Hadrush identifies Yosef’s ideas as the primary aspect of his wealth. Yosef left a legacy--three lessons to be gleaned and studied.

The first lesson is one that Korach inadvertently affirmed for us. Regardless of man's plans, Hashem's will prevails. Yosef's brothers envied and hated him. They almost executed his murder, they spared him at the last minute only to sell him as a slave. He was purchased by an Egyptian priest and became his foreman, only to lose his position when the priest's wife wrongfully accused him of misconduct. He was then relegated to live in squalor in an Egyptian prison. He was finally released after a forgetful butler remembered the favor that Yosef had done for him two years previously. Yosef finally achieved a responsible position. If we look back, he was destined for greatness. Nothing could have prevented that from occurring. Korach confirmed this principle when, despite his schemes, he failed to wrest the Kehunah Gedolah from Aharon.

The second lesson is that it is possible to have a good working relationship with the Gentile world. Yosef was a Hebrew slave in a land where Hebrews were despised. Yet, he became second to Pharaoh and a champion of the people. Admired and respected, he governed with dignity and worked in harmony with his Gentile peers. Those Gentiles that blatantly hate Jews are simply anti-Semites. They cannot tolerate the Jews for the most part because of unfounded jealousy or an innate insecurity that plagues so many of them. Although Antoninus of Rome was diametrically opposed philosophically to Rabbi Yehudah Ha’Nasi, they remained close friends. Those who feel they must clash with the Gentile world probably do not have the skills to get along with anyone.

The third lesson is the lesson of peace. Brothers must maintain peaceful co-existence, regardless of their differences. Vengeance and hatred must be put aside for love and forgiveness. Brothers must live together in harmony. Originally, Yosef and his brothers had far from an amicable relationship. The course of events led up to the point when their relationship reached its zenith--they made peace with one another. All nations of the world descend from Noach. One day the world will again be united in peace and harmony. We wait for that glorious day when Yosef’s third treasure will be revealed.

As for the nation, he settled it by cities, from one end of Egypt's borders to another. (47:21)

Rashi explains that Yosef moved the Egyptians from city to city for a specific purpose. He was concerned that when his family emigrated to Egypt, they would be made to feel as strangers, embarrassed and rejected by Egyptian society. By moving around the Egyptians, he circumvented this problem, since the Egyptians themselves were no longer considered the "natives." The author of Va’yevch Yosef notes Yosef’s remarkable mesiras nefesh, devotion and self-sacrifice, just to prevent his brothers from being humiliated. His concern for their emotional needs was incredible. He was prepared to move around an entire country, completely disrupt their lives, so that his brothers would not feel ill at ease.

A number of other instances demonstrate Yosef’s extraordinary solicitude for his brothers’ emotional well-being. When Yosef revealed his true identity to his brothers, he insisted that no Egyptian be present, so that his brothers’ shame would not be public. He risked his life in doing so, because without the protection of the many Egyptians in the royal palace, his brothers could have easily overwhelmed him. Yet, he took the risk. Better he should be killed than to humiliate his brothers.

Chazal tell us that during the seventeen years that Yaakov lived in Egypt, Yosef never once came to visit his father. Never was he alone in a situation in which they could talk about the past. Yosef was afraid that his father might question him regarding his whereabouts during the period of time preceding his ascension to the position of viceroy over Egypt. He knew that if his father would have asked, he would have been compelled to relate the entire tragic story of his brothers selling him. Rather than cause his brothers embarrassment, he was content not to see his father, from whom he had already been separated for so long. Can we imagine such devotion to his brothers’ feelings? Yosef must have been heart-broken not to be able to spend time with his aged father. He certainly was aware that it was either now or never. Yet, he refrained, due to his unique sensitivity for his brothers.

Furthermore, Chazal tell us that Yaakov did not kiss Yosef. He suspected that because Yosef had been in Egypt for all of these years, his handsome son must have surely succumbed to the many advances of the pagan Egyptian women. Yosef, the tzaddik, the standard by whom our moral parameter is measured, withstood temptation and did not fall into the grasp of their blandishments. How he must have wanted to tell his father--I am innocent! I did not sin! Please kiss me as a father kisses his son! Being alone with his father, however, would also have entailed reviewing the past. The brothers' tragic mistake would have been revealed and their shame exposed. No! Yosef would suffer, he would live under suspicion, he would risk his life, but he would not shame his brothers. We have one more insight into the life and character of a true tzaddik.


1. When Yehudah spoke to Yosef regarding their "lost" brother, he said, "And his brother (Yosef) is dead." Why did he say this?

2. Who had become a guarantor for Binyamin’s well-being?

3. When Yosef and Binyamin met, they cried on each other's neck. What did they cry about?

4. To whom must an individual show greater respect, his father or grandfather?

5. Who else, other than Avraham Avinu, responded to Hashem with the word, "Hineni"?

6. Who was sent ahead of the family to prepare the place for their arrival?

7. What immediate blessing occurred in Egypt as a result of Yaakov Avinu’s arrival?

8. How old was Yaakov when he arrived in Egypt?


1. He was afraid that if he said he was alive, Yosef would also have required them to bring him to Egypt.

2. Yehudah

3. Yosef cried about the two Batei Mikdash which would be in Binyamin’s portion of Eretz Yisrael that would be destroyed. Binyamin cried about the Mishkan Shiloh, which would be in Yosef’s portion, that would also be destroyed.

4. His father.

5. Yaakov.

6. Yehudah.

7. The famine ended.

8. 130 years old.


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