Wednesday, January 04, 2006

PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Week of January 1-7, 2006 (Vayigash)


Tevet 4, 5766 * January 4, 2006


TORAH PORTION: Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)

Torah Reading for Week of January 1-7, 2006

On the Web:

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Judah approaches Joseph to plead for the release of Benjamin, offering himself as a slave to the Egyptian ruler in Benjamin's stead. Upon witnessing his brothers' loyalty to each other, Joseph reveals his identity to them. "I am Joseph," he declares. "Is my father still alive?"

The brothers are overcome by shame and remorse, but Joseph comforts them. It was not you who sent me here, he says to them, but G-d. It has all been ordained from Above to save us, and the entire region, from famine.

The brothers rush back to Canaan with the news. Jacob comes to Egypt with his sons and their families -- seventy souls in all -- and is reunited with his beloved son after 22 years. On his way to Egypt he receives the Divine promise: "Fear not to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation. I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again."

Joseph gathers the wealth of Egypt by selling food and seed during the famine. Pharaoh gives Jacob's family the fertile county of Goshen to settle, and the children of Israel prosper in their Egyptian exile.

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- And he called: "Order every man to go out from me!" And no man stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. (Genesis 45:1)

Rabbi Chama bar Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Samuel bar Nachmani discussed this. Rabbi Chama said: Joseph did not act prudently, for had one of them kicked him, he would have died on the spot. Rabbi Samuel said: He acted rightly and prudently. He knew the righteousness of his brethren and reasoned: Heaven forefend! My brothers are not to be suspected of bloodshed. (Midrash Rabbah)

- And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Be'er-Sheba. (Genesis 46:1)

Why did he go there? Said Rabbi Nachman: He went to cut down the cedars which his grandfather Abraham had planted in Be'er-Sheba. These cedars were then taken along when the Children of Israel left Egypt, and were used for the construction of the Sanctuary in the desert. (Midrash Rabbah)

For all the years that the children of Israel were in Egypt, Jacob's cedars served as a link to their past and a promise of their future. "This is not your home," the growing trees said. "You, like us, hail from a loftier, holier place. And soon you will leave this depraved land, to be reclaimed by G-d as His people. You will then uproot us from this foreign land and carry us triumphantly to Sinai, where you will construct out of us a dwelling for the Divine presence in your midst." (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

- And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father... and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck. (Genesis 46:29)

But Jacob did not embrace Joseph and did not kiss him; our sages tell us that he was reading the Shema. (Rashi)

Why did Jacob choose that particular moment to read the Shema? Because Jacob knew that never in his life would his love be aroused as it was at that moment, the moment of reunion with his most beloved son after twenty-two years of anguish and loss. So he chose to utilize this tremendous welling of emotion to serve His Creator, channeling it to fuel his love for G-d. (The Chassidic Masters)


For more Parshah reading, please visit our "Full Parshah with Commentary" section with its dozens of excerpts from the Midrash, Talmud, Commentaries and the Chassidic Masters:

To view this page on the Web with many more links, please click here:


Featured Audio Class on

Vayigash - Joseph's Leadership Role
By Moshe New

The lesson from Joseph: the strength and ability to be a leader and sustain society not just physically but spiritually as well.

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