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PARSHAS VAYIGASHThen he fell upon his brother Binyamin's neck and wept; and Binyamin wept upon his neck. (45:14)
Rashi quotes Chazal (Megillah 16b) who indicate that Yosef and Binyamin wept over the destruction of the Sanctuaries which would be built in their respective portions of Eretz Yisrael. Yosef cried over the two Batei Mikdash which were to be situated in Binyamin's territory, while Binyamin mourned the Mishkan Shiloh which was to be in Yosef's portion of Eretz Yisrael. Clearly, the weeping generated by these destructions could have occurred at a different time. Yosef and Binyamin had been separated for twenty-two years. The joy in meeting one another must have been overwhelming. Just talking about the missing years and what had happened to each one, their families and their experiences, should have taken precedence over what was going to take place in the future. Nonetheless, it is the destruction of the Temples that occupied the minds of these two giants. How are we to understand their actions?
The Ksav Sofer offers a novel explanation. He cites the Talmud Yoma 9b, which states that the Bais Hamikdash fell victim to the three cardinal sins of idolatry, murder and adultery. The second Bais Hamikdash was destroyed as a result of the sin of sinaas chinam, unwarranted hatred, among Jews. This was despite their observance of mitzvos and performance of kind deeds. This teaches that the sin of sinaas chinam carries the same weight as all three cardinal sins.
The mechiras Yosef, sale of Yosef, was, for all intents and purposes, a manifestation of the sin of sinaas chiam. (I must add that this statement is relative, since we cannot possibly begin to understand the spiritual plateau of the Shivtei Kah.) One thing is for certain: Yosef and Binyamin were not in any way involved in mechiras Yosef. Perhaps this is why the Batei Mikdash were built in their territories. They had no taint of sinaas chinam on them.
The Chasam Sofer posits that, for this reason, when mechiras Yosef finally came to a conclusion, Yosef and Binyamin were "informed" by Heaven that, because no vestige of hatred existed among them, the Batei Mikdash and Mishkan Shiloh would be built in their respective portions of Eretz Yisrael. This is why it is that specifically when they meet each other, and they are informed about the Batei Mikdash, they cried. They were now acutely aware of their future loss.
The Yalkut Shimoni Mishlei: 929 substantiates this idea. He attributes the tragic murder of the Ten Martyrs to mechiras Yosef. He adds, that in every generation that sin manifests itself again. Ten righteous men of every generation carry upon themselves the weight of this tragic sin. To explain this statement, we must consider the fact that the sin of sinaas chinam, unwarranted hatred, between brothers still manifests itself in many guises: some are blatant; others are very well concealed. Nonetheless, it is present, and, unless we focus more on ahavas chinam, the problem - with its concomitant punishment - will persist.
Horav Pinchas Friedman, Shlita, cites the Zohar Chadash, Parashas Vayeishev, that attributes our exile at the hands of Edom/Eisav's minions directly to sinaas chinam. Eisav personified this egregious mindset, acting it out to its fullest extent. A quick perusal through our tumultuous history indicates that the descendants of Eisav (who are obvious) have stood at the forefront of this baseless hatred. Whether it goes by the name anti-Semitism, or whatever label society attaches to it, it is unwarranted, baseless and senseless. It is hate for the purpose of hate. Rather than focus on Eisav, we should look inward and identify - in order to correct - those areas in which, as Jewish brethren, we are deficient in our demeanor towards one another.
Rav Friedman quotes Horav Yechezkel, zl, m'Kozmir, cited by his grandson, the Divrei Yisrael of Modzitz. In addition to focusing on sinaas chinam as the primary sin of mechiras Yosef, he explains that when Yosef and Binyamin met, their weeping was, in a sense, their preparation paving the way for their descendants to repair the sin of sinaas chinam. This is indicated by their not weeping for the Temple in their own territory, but specifically for the Sanctuary situated in the other one's territory. Brotherly love means that one cares for the other - not for himself. This was manifest by their weeping for one another.
In his inimitable manner, Rav Friedman expands on the fact that it was Yosef and Binyamin, the two sons of Rachel Imeinu, who paved the way for their brothers to place the greater emphasis on achdus, unity. In a well-known Midrash (Pesichah Megillas Eichah, Midrash Rabbah), Chazal relate that, during the Churban, destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, each of the Avos, Patriarchs, followed by Moshe Rabbeinu, came before Hashem to intercede on behalf of Klal Yisrael. Hashem did not listen to their pleas. It was only after Rachel Imeinu came forward and told her story that Hashem was "moved" to say, "Because of you, I will return Yisrael to the land."
Rachel's plea consisted of relating how she overlooked her natural desire to be the designated wife of Yaakov Avinu. Concerned for her sister's feelings, lest she be humiliated if discovered, she gave Leah Imeinu the simanim, special signs, which Yaakov gave to her, just in case her father, Lavan, made a switch - which, of course, he did. Rachel's concern for her sister's emotional well-being went so far that she concealed herself in the room, and, when Yaakov spoke to Leah, Rachel responded, in order to prevent her sister from being put to shame. She overcame envy, allowing her sister to precede her in marriage, and she triumphed over her personal pain as she listened to Yaakov and Rachel, knowing that it should have been she who had become his wife. She did all of this out of selfless love for her sister. Thus, when Hashem, Who was punishing Klal Yisrael for their baseless hatred of one another, saw the incredible selfless love manifest by Rachel, He allowed the Jewish People to return to the Holy Land. Thus, Yosef and Binyamin were continuing their mother's legacy of selfless love.
Then he fell upon his brother Binyamin's neck and wept; and Binyamin wept upon his neck. (45:14)
The casual reader of Biblical text, who refuses to look beyond the simple translation and delve into the profundities of the Torah's interpretation, sees an emotional meeting between two brothers who had been separated for twenty-two years. This might be the case if this were a secular novel and the two heroes were simple people. When an encounter is recorded in the Torah for posterity and the players are Yosef and Binyamin, two members of Shivtei Kah, one must be obtuse to view this meeting superficially. Chazal illuminate the scenario when they tell us that this was no simple emotional crying over a long separation; rather, Yosef saw the destruction of the Batei Mikdash which were built in Binyamin's territorial home in Eretz Yisrael. Binyamin wept over the Mishkan in Shiloh which was situated in Yosef's portion of Eretz Yisrael. One never ceases to be amazed at the denseness manifest by secular commentators, who absolutely eschew the truth.
Having said this, let us now understand why Yosef wept over Binyamin's destruction, and Binyamin wept for Yosef's troubles. One would expect each one to mourn his own personal adversity. Horav Aharon, zl, m'Belz, and the Imrei Emes, zl, asked this question shortly after these venerable Admorim arrived in Eretz Yisrael following the cataclysmic Holocaust tragedy which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of their chassidim, along with millions of their Jewish brethren. In a meeting with the remnants of their chassidus, they presented this question. In order to better understand and appreciate their response, I take the liberty of quoting a story which was related by Rav Yitzchak Hershkowitz, Shlita, in Nitzotzos.
Chabad Lubavitch had a chain of clandestine yeshivos that operated under the radar of the Soviet authorities. The KGB were on the prowl, looking for any infraction on the part of the Jewish refuseniks. To be caught meant a quick trip to Siberia or another one of Russia's wastelands, exposed to the elements and subject to daily deprivation and beatings. There is no doubt that those who came to learn, as well as those who did the teaching, were individuals of a most elevated spiritual status.
Horav Yechezkel Fagin, zl, was one of these unique mentors whose devotion to spreading Torah knew no bounds. One time, he convened a group of students whom he felt were not devoting enough energy to davening, Torah study and middos, character trait, development. Even the finest student requires a little nudge every once in a while. He spoke with extreme emotion, and his words were well received. The young men began to weep, expressing their remorse concerning their failure to be more devoted to their spiritual growth.
Suddenly, one of the students whose turn it was to stand guard as a lookout, to warn the group of KGB police in the area, came running in to notify them that it appeared that the KGB were making a sweep of the area. The danger was very real. If they were caught - they would be in serious trouble. No excuse would suffice. To leave meant being subjected to intense questioning concerning why they were there in the first place.
Immediately, those gathered around the table came up with suggestions about how to avert a disaster. One suggested running for their lives. Another suggested shutting the light, thus giving the impression that the house was empty. Another said that they should put newspapers and secular reading material on the table, so that the KGB would not suspect any wrongdoing on their part.
With the blessing of the Almighty, the KGB halted their search before they came to their house. They were now able to return to the table to continue their learning. Prior to continuing his lecture, Rav Fagin said, "I just saw something strange. Explain to me what is your greater fear: physical adversity or spiritual hardship?" Before they could respond, he continued, "How is it that when I spoke to you concerning your lack of spiritual ascendancy, you responded with remorse; yet, when you feared for your lives, you came up with various ideas on how to solve the problem? When your lives were in danger - not a single one of you cried! You immediately went to work seeking solutions."
One of the students replied, "Did you think that when the KGB comes knocking at our door, we would sit around with folded hands and cry? What would that help? When they come, one either hides or runs away. Crying helplessly is of no consequence!"
"Aha," said the Rav. "Now, I understand. There is no place for tears when you must move quickly and decisively. You know that crying will be of little consequence. It is a time for action. When it comes to issues of spirituality, suddenly you have time, you cry, feel bad, and slowly seek a solution to your spiritual morass. Why rush?"
The Rav explained to them that weeping is an excuse, a delay tactic to ward off a confrontation with reality. Crying solves no problem. It relieves one's emotions as it delays his reaction to the issue at hand. One who is serious about his desire to change and grow spiritually has no time for tears. He acts decisively and definitively - immediately.
This is the response the holy tzaddikim gave to their question concerning Yosef and Binyamin weeping over the other one's troubles. "When it comes to someone else's adversity; one cries. When the troubles are his own; when they are present - one acts. There is no time for weeping. We must immediately begin to rebuild. This is our tzarah, trouble."
This was the attitude of the Ponevezer Rav, zl. Following the Holocaust, he was asked how he could live with the tragedy, the pain of losing his yeshivah, friends and family. He replied, "I will rebuild it all! Every tear is another brick in the yeshivah. Every sigh is another shtender, lectern, in the bais hamedrash. I have put aside the pain, so that I can build and return the Torah-world to its previous splendor and majesty."
So Yaakov set out with all that he had and he came to Beer-Sheva. (46:1)
The Midrash asks where Yaakov Avinu went. Chazal respond, Lakutz arazim, "To cut down the cedar trees which his grandfather, Avraham Avinu, planted in Beer Sheva." I have referred to this Midrash a number of times, but upon perusing it again, I am struck with two questions. Yaakov is on his way to greet his long-lost son, Yosef, for whom he had mourned for twenty-two years. Can one ever begin to imagine the excitement that coursed through the Patriarch at this time? His son that he had given up for dead was not only alive, but had achieved the epitome of monarchy in the most depraved country in the world! Imagine, a Jew, reviled and castigated by the world, accomplishes the impossible - and is revered, admired and even loved! Yaakov must have been bursting with joy, effusive in his excitement. One would expect him to take the quickest route and use the speediest means of travel. Why did he make a stop in Beer Sheva to cut down cedar trees? If his goal was to transport these trees to Egypt, he could have sent his sons. Alternatively, once he had reached Egypt, had seen Yosef, and had spent some quality time with him, he could have taken a short trip to Beer Sheva to retrieve the trees. Making Beer Sheva part of his itinerary raised eyebrows. Apparently, an important lesson can be derived from here.
Second, if Yaakov felt it that important for him to go to Beer Sheva - fine - but why did he include his entire entourage in his trip? Why did his entire family have to accompany him on his tree-cutting expedition? Apparently, this was no simple event. It was a lesson for generations, to be passed on to his progeny, and they to theirs.
Yaakov went to retrieve the cedars planted by Avraham. These cedars would one day be the Kerashim, Beams, of the Mishkan. The cedars represented the most vital component in Klal Yisrael's fabric - the Torah. Without the foundation of the Torah, Yaakov could not have gone down to Egypt. Yes, he missed his son, but love for a child must be predicated upon the foundation set forth by the Torah. Children must know that their parents love them, but that they love Hashem even more. Children must know and appreciate the value of Torah. In order for children to appreciate Torah's value, they must observe this feeling emanating from their parents.
Yaakov's children saw him as a loving father whose transcendental values of eternity superseded even his love of them. Furthermore, the children saw that his values were a legacy from the past. It was his grandfather who had planted the cedars which Yaakov would now transplant on Egyptian soil - for his future descendants to take with them into the wilderness. When they built the Mishkan, it was raised upon the foundation which Avraham and Yaakov had established.
This was the lesson that Yaakov wanted to impart to his family. Unless they stood by and watched, it would have had very little meaning. There is nothing like firsthand perception, actively seeing it.
I recently had occasion to see a young student attending shul on Shabbos, away from home. He was alone in shul with some friends. He never left his seat, davening the entire time, not even conversing with his friends, who were not maintaining perfect decorum. I wondered what secret ingredient his parents possessed: what had they put into his cereal; what "threats" had they imposed on him? Upon sharing my feeling with the boy's mother, she explained that her son had not been allowed to go to shul on Shabbos until he had been able and prepared to sit out the entire session next to his father and daven. The boy had been taught values when he saw his father daven. When children, regrettably, see their father sleeping late and arriving at the end of Shacharis for the Torah reading, or just in time to join in the festivities at the kiddush club, he receives an entirely different lesson. Our children remember what we show them. When they see us talking in shul - they will talk. When they see us davening - they will daven. We are the first line of defense for our children's positive growth. Unfortunately, we can also be the greatest offenders.
And Yaakov blessed Pharaoh. (47:7)
The blessing that Yaakov Avinu gave to Pharaoh had an enormous effect on Egypt's agricultural bounty. Indeed, Rashi explains that, following Yaakov's blessing, the Nile River rose up to "greet" Pharaoh and then irrigated the land. The Satmar Rav, zl, related that, in the twilight of the life of his grandfather, the Yismach Moshe, the heads of the community approached him with a complaint. Apparently, the sage davened privately in a room off of the main bais medrash. This bothered them. They added a few more foolish critiques, which they felt granted them permission to refuse him his meager salary and to search for a replacement. Clearly, people have not changed in the last hundred years. Excuses for replacing spiritual leadership are becoming more transparent, but no one seems to care.
The Yismach Moshe replied to them, "I would like you to take a count of how many fires our community has experienced in the last eighteen years (that he had been Rav). Also, please confirm for me how many women have miscarried a pregnancy. You will discover that, during my tenure as Rav of this community, there has neither been a fire, nor has a woman miscarried. Thus, I feel you owe me a salary for protecting the welfare of the city."
People take their spiritual leadership for granted. To merit having the gadol hador, preeminent Torah leader of the generation, as Rav, yet quibble about his practice at davening alone, bespeaks severe obtuseness of the mind. Yet, it is quite common, often fueled by an overactive ego, the result of wealth or other form of self-aggrandizement.
A similar idea may be gleaned from the pasuk which relates the Egyptians' request for seeds, so that they could plant and sustain themselves of the harvest, V'sen zera v'nichyeh v'lo namus, "And provide seed so that we may live and not die" (Ibid 47:19). Rashi explains that, according to Yosef's timetable, Egypt was destined for two more years of hunger, so that seeds would not grow. Once Yaakov Avinu appeared in Egypt, however, his merit brought an end to the anticipated hunger.
The story is told that when the Shaagas Arye, Horav Arye Leib Gunzberg, zl, arrived in Metz to accept the position of Rav, the community was effusive with praise and excited over its good fortune. As one of the generation's preeminent gaonim, brilliant Torah scholars, he overwhelmed the city's scholars with his encyclopedic knowledge of Torah and ingenious penetrating analytical skills. There was, regrettably, one sad note: He had already reached an advanced age (by the standards of the day). He was seventy years old.
The Shaagas Arye sensed the change in mood when they gazed at his aged body and his long, flowing white beard. The people seemed nervous, almost tense and upset. In an attempt to alleviate their fears, he shared with them the following dvar Torah: "The Torah teaches us that when Yaakov met Pharaoh, the king asked the Patriarch, 'How old are you?' The Patriarch replied that he was one hundred thirty years. He then added, 'Few and bad have been the days of my life, and they have not reached the lifespans of my forefathers' (ibid 47:9). Why was it necessary for Yaakov to add this last statement, which comes across like an apology for appearing to be so old? Furthermore, why was Pharaoh concerned with Yaakov's age? Since when do we greet someone and immediately question him concerning his age?
"Rashi alludes to the explanation when he writes that, upon Yaakov's arrival, Egypt prospered like it never had before. The hunger that had been devastating the country ended. The Nile River was irrigating the land like it had never before. Pharaoh feared that it was all going to come to a halt - very soon. When he took one look at Yaakov, he became nervous. The Patriarch looked like an old man. This is why Yaakov told him that he had experienced an extremely difficult life. He had aged prematurely, and, in fact, he was much younger than his forefathers had been when they died. Pharaoh could rest assured. Yaakov was not 'leaving' in the near future.
"Likewise, my dear friends, I will have you know that I have had a very difficult life, which has taken its toll on my physical appearance. My body has sustained much travail. I assure you, however, that I will be Rav of Metz for at least twenty more years. You may rest assured."
We do not recognize the contributions of our Torah leaders to our physical and material existence. We think that we benefit from them only in the spiritual dimension, but what do they have to do with our material lives? Their mere presence provides merit which would otherwise be unavailable to us. This is something which we should never take for granted.
Ani Hashem Elokeichem - I am Hashem, your G-d.
The phrase, Ani Hashem Elokeichem, is written twice in this last parsha of Krias Shema. The first time, it is mentioned in connection with yetzias Mitzrayim, the Egyptian exodus. The second time, it is the closing phrase of Krias Shema. Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, explains that the repetition is necessary to underscore an important verity concerning Hashem's relationship with His People.
One aspect of Hashem's relationship is via Gilui Shechinah, Hashem's Presence revealed through the media of miracles, wonders and prophecy. The most outstanding example of Gilui Shechinah is the Exodus, during which Hashem's Presence was clearly evident to everyone. The entire sequence of events - from the Ten Plagues, the Exodus, the Splitting of the Red Sea, until the most stellar event in history, the Giving of the Torah - was all overt, revealed for all to see. There was no question that Hashem was guiding all these events. This relationship with Klal Yisrael is introduced by the first Ani Hashem Elokeichem - "Who took you out of Egypt."
For the major portion of history, however, Hashem's relationship with His nation has been covert. Hashem has acted through the guise of nature. When Hashem's orchestration of history is veiled or hidden, those whose emunah, faith, is not consummate begin to question or -worse - contrive answers which do not include Hashem in the equation. This is why Ani Hashem Elokeichem is repeated. Have no fear; do not doubt that the same Ani Hashem Who took you out of Egypt is behind the events which seem to be following the natural order. Hashem says to us: "Although you may not be aware of My Presence in your future daily lives, nevertheless, I am the same G-d who related to you through the earth-shattering events of the Exodus, leading up to the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. I shall continue to be Hashem Elokeichem under all circumstances of My management of the world.
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