Theory, practice and the gap in between – Parashat Vayigash

Since the beginning of Parashat Vayeishev, Ya’akov and his family were expecting to usher in the Messianic era. We have previously mentioned that Rashi comments that Ya’akov sought to live in tranquillity, in spite of the fact that the exile and redemption promised to Avraham had yet to take place. All the difficulties and obstacles that Ya’akov underwent in the house of Lavan were but a prelude to the actual exile of the nascent Jewish People.

The conflict between Yosef and the brothers centred on whether the prophecy had been fulfilled or not, with the denouement in this week’s parasha coming with Yosef revealing himself to them, where we see that at least between the brothers, the dispute was resolved in favour of Yosef. What we see afterwards is a total reappraisal of the brothers’ outlook: “How are we going to engage with Galut? Will we succeed in maintaining our identity?

After Ya’akov is made aware of the news that Yosef is alive, he hopes against hope that Yosef will leave Egypt to return home. It is for this reason that he travels to Be’er Sheva, brings sacrifices and is told by Hashem that the prophecy of Avraham has yet to be fulfilled, and that he must go down to Egypt. This reluctance to leave is all the more astounding when we encounter the last verse of the parasha, together with the commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, better known as the Kli Yakar. The verse reads, “and Israel settled in the Land of Goshen and they multiplied throughout the land,” To which the Kli Yakar elaborates that this verse stands as a direct parallel to the previous time that the Torah says that Ya’akov “settled”, and represents an inditement of the Jewish People, who were only supposed to be temporary residents, but ultimately sought that same tranquillity that Ya’akov did following his return from Lavan’s house.

The question that arises is “Why was there such a dissonance between our ambitions and reality?” One answer can be found in the writings of the Piacezna Rebbe, when describing Yosef and Binyamin embracing and crying. Rashi famously comments that they were crying for the Temples that would be destroyed in their portions of the Land of Israel. When Yosef and Ya’akov are reunited, the verse recounts that Yosef fell on Ya’akov’s neck and wept, while according to Rashi, Ya’akov said Kriyat Shema. The Piacezna Rebbe explains that the significance of the neck represents the ability of the individual to function  despite all the burdens and obstacles that life presents. The question is asked as to why did Yaakov not cry or fall on the neck of Yosef? The Piacezna Rebbe says that Ya’akov wanted to show Yosef that the way to maintain one’s level in galut is not to cry and lose heart in the face of adversity, but to face it unflinchingly, secure in one’s trust in Hashem.

About the Author
David Gross was born in Geneva and grew up in London. He graduated from UCL in 2010 with a B.A. in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He has previously served as Southern Fieldworker of Bnei Akiva UK. He has studied and taught in Yeshivat HaKotel, and currently teaches in Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. He will be starting an MBA at Bar Ilan in the coming academic year.
Related Topics
Related Posts