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QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT - VAYIGASH
Who said to whom, and in what circumstances?
(a) His soul is bound up with his soul.
(b) Is my father still alive?
(c) You will eat the fat of the land.
(d) Do not quarrel on the way.
(e) I will go and see him before I die.
(f) Do not be frightened to go down to Egypt.
(g) You shall say: 'Your servants have been cattlemen'.
(h) We have come to live in the land
(i) The days... of my life have been few and bad.
(j) You have saved out lives.
THE TEXT ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH - ANSWERS
(a) Judah to Joseph incognito, as the Viceroy of Egypt, in pleading for the release of Benjamin in his stead. (44:30)
(b) Joseph, on revealing his true identity to his brothers, exclaimed: 'I am Joseph - is my father (Jacob) still alive?' (45:3)
(c) Pharaoh to Joseph, in inviting Jacob and his sons to come to Egypt. (45:18)
(d) Joseph to his brothers, on seeing them off to Canaan (45:24).
(e) Jacob to his sons, on learning that Joseph was still alive.(45:28)
(f) G-d to Jacob, at the beginning of his journey from Canaan to Egypt. (46:3)
(g) Joseph to his brothers, in preparing them to successfully persuade Pharaoh to allow them to live close to him in Goshen, in Egypt (46:34).
(h) Joseph's brothers to Pharaoh (47:4), in the circumstances in #(g) above.
(i) Jacob to Pharaoh, on their first meeting. (47:9)
(j) The Egyptians to Joseph, on his supplying them with seeds to keep alive during the famine, in return for a fifth of their produce being passed to Pharaoh (47:25).
RASHI ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH - QUESTIONS
Where in the Parasha may the following Torah values be learnt?
1. One may tell untruths if in real danger.
2. When traveling, keep eyes on the road first - even if discussing matters of Torah importance!
3. Honoring parents comes before honoring grandparents.
4. Honoring parents comes before one's own routine.
5. Pharaoh's offer of hospitality to Jacob turned out to be to his own great advantage (two sources).
RASHI ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH - ANSWERS
1. In pleading for Benjamin to be spared, Judah states that 'his brother is dead'. (44:20) He had no proof at the time that Joseph - the 'brother' was dead. He said so out of fear that if he said otherwise, he might be forced to bring him down to Egypt, as previously with Bemjamin. That, from Judah's point of view, was impossible. From there it can be illustrated that one may tell untruths when in personal danger.
2. Joseph warned his brothers when they set towards Canaan to bring their father Jacob: 'al tirgezu baderech' - do not become agitated on the way (45:25). That expression, according to Rashi, can mean not to get involved in a Halachic argument less 'the road becomes angry at you' - a figurative expression telling them not to become so engrossed that they lose their way.
3. Rashi comments on 'He slaughtered offerings to the G-d of his father Isaac' that Jacob associated his offerings with Isaac and not Abraham, his grandfather. This teaches us that a son owes more honor to his father than to his grandfather.
4. The text states that Joseph himself harnessed his chariot when he went to meet his father Jacob, on his arrival to Egypt. He did not delay by the usual procedure of waiting for one of his servants to make the necessary preparations. (46:29)
5. Firstly, Rashi quotes the tradition that when 'Jacob blessed Pharaoh' (47:10), the blessing was that the Nile would rise whenever he would approach that river and water the thirsty land and its crops. Secondly, Rashi point out from the text stating the Egyptians begged Joseph for seeds in the second year of the famine (47:19), the implication that the famine did indeed come to an end on Jacob's arrival in Egypt.
OTHER COMMENTATORS ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH - QUESTIONS
1. The Torah records that Joseph died at the age 110 (50:26). The Talmud (Sotah 13b) has the tradition that he should have lived to 120, but that he forfeited ten years of his life. For what reason, as derived from the opening section of this Parasha?
2. The arrival of Joseph's brothers, after their true identity was revealed, was 'good in the eyes of Pharaoh' (45:16). Why was this so, according to (a) the Ramban and (b) the Sforno?
3. The Rabbis have a tradition that Aravit, the evening prayer, was instituted by Jacob. How, according to the Meshech Chochma, does that connect with this Parasha?
4. Why, according to the Sforno, did G-d tell Jacob not to be afraid of 'going down to Egypt?' (46:3)
5. Why, according to Hisrch, were 'all shepherds (Joseph's brothers' occupation) abominations to the Egyptians'? (46:34)
OTHER COMMENTATORS ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH - ANSWERS
1. The Talmud (Sotah 13b) has the tradition that Joseph was punished for remaining silent when his own father was described by Judah as 'avdecha' - your servant. He lost ten years of his life as a punishment for doing so. Judah himself had done nothing wrong because he thought that he was addressing Egyptian royalty, and such was the required etiquette of the time and place. However, Joseph - from his own point of view - would not have revealed his identity by saying that a resident of Canaan was not his subject - his servant.
2. According to the Ramban, Pharaoh was delighted that his country would no longer bear the stigma of being ruled by an ex-slave and an ex-convict of unknown origins. Now, he could demonstrate that Joseph - his viceroy - came from a highly distinguished background. The Sforno stresses that as Joseph's own family were becoming residents of Egypt, he would think of himself as a fully fledged member of that community and become even more devoted to its interests.
3. The text states that G-d appeared to Jacob early on his descent to Egypt 'in the visions of night'. (46:2) This is the only place where a vision is described in those terms - which imply impending darkness. Indeed, the long period in Egypt leading to years of harsh slavery began at that time. The night of exile, when hope was wrapped in darkness, was about to begin. G-d, therefore came in the 'visions of night' to stress to Jacob that though the Israelites would be cut off from their Land, they would never be cut off from G-d - He would always be with them. Therefore, explains the Meshech Chochma, Jacob instituted the 'Aravit' - daily evening prayer, to show his descendants likewise: the night might be an epilogue to one day, but it is the prologue to another, better day.
4. According to the S'forno, G-d told Jacob not to fear, because in Egypt his descendants would be in less danger of assimilating with the surrounding nations than in the Land of Canaan. For in Egypt, the foreigner was kept at arm's length - as the text itself records: 'for the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews - it was an abomination for Egypt'. (43:32)
5. Hirsch finds the traits of the shepherd unacceptable to the Egyptians. Because a shepherd is involved with dependant living creatures, he develops the personal attributes of kindness and generosity. Because his possessions are unstable, he learns not to place too much emphasis on wealth. And the gently rhythm of his work gives him time to contemplate on holier and less mundane matters. The Egyptians, writes Hirsch, has a culture that abhorred the above values. It encouraged slavery and the disregard of human dignity, and the resultant perversions and excesses of the country have been well documented.
A favorite comment from the Chafetz Chayim: When Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers with the words 'I am Joseph' G-d's master plan became clear to the brothers. They had no more questions. Everything that had happened for the last twenty-two years fell into perspective. So, too, it will be in the time to come when G-d will reveal Himself and announce 'I am G-d!' The veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will comprehend the meaning of our very strange and tortuous history…
SOME ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION
1. The Midrash explains that the reason Jacob sent Judah in advance of him (46:28) was to establish a house of Torah study. This Midrashic explanation emphasizes the need to prioritize Torah education at every place where there is a Jewish community. What was the reason Jacob wanted a house of Torah study to be established in Egypt before he arrived there? Surely he himself could have performed the task better than his son would have? After all, Jacob was (according to the Midrash) a direct disciple of Shem and Ever.
2. The text states: Israel journeyed with all he had and he came to Be-er Sheva. He made offerings to the G-d of his father Isaac… G-d spoke to Israel in night visions and he said 'Jacob, Jacob'… 'Do not fear to descend to Egypt for I shall make you into a great nation there' (46:1-3). The Torah uses the word zevach rather than olah for an offering. That implies a korban shelamim - a peace offering (Vayikra 3:1). Why did Jacob make that type of korban - something that is usually brought as thanks, when he was leaving the Promised Land? And why, having Himself changed his name to Israel did He subsequently use the name Jacob?
*Please note - My own attempts to deal with the issues related in #1 and #2 may be found in the archives for 5762 and 5761 respectively in Shema Yisrael - on Parashat Vayigash
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Also by Jacob Solomon: Between the Fish and the Soup
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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