Parshat Vayigash 5778: The Contrast Between the Brothers’ Teshuvah and Unity and Today’s Divisiveness

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayigash is being co- sponsored by Rabbi Rafael & Vivianne Willig and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of to the brave chayalim of the IDF and by Matt & Ilana Bornstein dedicated with a Mazel Tov on Moshe Lavi’s Chassuna. To the Willig and Bornstein families, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayigash 5778: The Contrast Between the Brothers’ Teshuvah and Unity and Today’s Divisiveness

by Moshe Burt

To this day, years later, this author and others, can’t shake the trauma of the expulsion which was forced upon our former Gush Katif and Shomron brethren despite our votes, protests and efforts against it.

Over the past 12 1/2 years since the expulsion of our brethren from their homes and neighborhoods in Gush Katif and the four Shomron towns, we’ve read occasional reports on Israel’s online news sites of our brethren receiving calls or emails voicing regret from some who either previously supported the expulsion or who sat on their hands and did nothing, and who now would express contrition and beg forgiveness from their evicted brethren in the hope of either clearing their personal consciences, or sincerely seeking peace within Am Yisrael. And every so often we hear a military general, or a major party leader vice regret over expulsion as a major strategic blunder which has resulted in amassed rocket stores and rocket attacks on Jews in towns bordering Gaza, two major wars and numerous terror tunnels from which the enemy aims to infiltrate into Israel to wreak devastation upon us.

There are even some political factions who have recently offered legislation aimed at restoring the four Shomron towns where Jews were evicted during the expulsion.

And yet, this past year we witnessed a second expulsion mandated by Israel’s “supreme court” which took place in Amona — some forty Jewish family, some 200 souls evicted, their homes leveled, and government promises of rebuilt homes, at government expense, for these expelled families of Amona seemingly abrogated. We watch with baited breath to see the true meaning of these expressions begging forgiveness.

How do we bring about a state of true and permanent national unity amongst Klal Yisrael such as to bring Torah-based change in the national political/governmental psyche?

What exactly constitutes true intent, true contrition in Teshuva and true and permanent national unity?

The continuing divisiveness and polarization of the various sectors of Jews, as well as a generation of bankrupt governing politicians, media and intelligencia — Israel’s political swamp, with their continuing self-perpetuating power motivations stand in stark contrast to the teshuvah of the brothers for their actions toward Yosef and the pleas of Yehudah and the brothers on behalf of their youngest brother Binyamin.

Sefer “Shem Mishmuel,” by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, the Sochaczever Rebbe, as rendered to English by Rabbi Zev Belovski discusses what comprises the above attributes and defines unity (pages 49-51):

The Torah here describes Klal Yisrael as a united entity — a perfect and complete national body….

Together, working in harmony, Yisrael is a world unto itself, pulsating with the vibrancy of unity… If there were some interference or attempt at adding to the heavenly array, a disaster of cosmic proportions would ensue…. If any addition or subtraction were to befall Klal Yisrael, then its very purpose would be frustrated.

Klal Yisrael comprises many different people, each with their own distinct personality. How, then, is this prized unity to be achieved and maintained? Each member of the nation must subjugate his own needs and desires to those of Hashem. In this way alone can true unity be achieved, enabling the Klal to function as one organism with a single overall purpose.

In setting the stage for the climactic confrontation between Yehudah and the Viceroy, and the dramatic reunion between Yosef and his brothers, we open with a citing from “The Midrash Says”, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman notes on Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev (page 354):

Reuven left the company. He never partook in meals since he was constantly fasting and praying for having committed the sin of disarranging his father’s couch.

With Reuven out of the picture, Yehudah urges the other brothers present to sell Yosef, to make some money on the situation, dab blood on his tunic and carry the tunic home to Yaakov who then believes that a wild beast ate or ripped apart Yosef. Reuven returns later to the pit and is grief-stricken having found the pit empty. When the sons see the inconsolable grief in their father Yaakov, they rebuke Yehudah and cast him out from the family — thus the story of Tamar.

But it seems unfathomable that none of the brothers could have anticipated in advance their father’s inconsolable grief-stricken reaction to what he understood at the time to be the death of his most beloved son. Were they sooo blinded by their jealousy and hatred of Yosef and sooo irresponsible that they cared not about the consequences of their actions until after the fact? Maybe they just didn’t chap that old detective Baretta line — “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Parsha Mikeitz begins the recording of the whole affair between Yosef and the brothers when they came to Mitzrayim to buy food and were accused by the Viceroy of being spies. We learned how after hearing their story and family history through a translator (actually Yosef’s son Menashe who acted as translator although Yosef understood the brothers completely), Yosef demanded that they bring their youngest brother to him and incarcerated Shimon as insurance that the brothers would indeed return with Binyamin, their youngest brother.

We learn that in the middle of Parsha Mikeitz, with the imprisonment of Shimon, the brothers recognized and attributed their predicament to the sin they had committed earlier by throwing Yosef into the pit and then selling him to the Mitzriyim. Yosef heard and understood their conversation and left their presence to cry silently. (Referring to Sefer Breish’t, Perek 42, posukim 21-24)

Then, we learn how when Binyamin was finally brought to Yosef, the brothers were provided with food, but then it was made to appear as if Binyamin had stolen the Viceroy’s silver goblet. The Viceroy detained Binyamin under charges that he had stolen the goblet and released the other brothers to return to their father.

Our Parsha Vayigash begins with Yehuda speaking his appeal to the Viceroy on behalf of his father Yaakov regarding Binyamin’s imprisonment.

Rav Zelig Pliskin (Growth Through Torah, page 119) renders Yehudah’s plea to the Viceroy (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 44, posuk 18):

“And Yehudah approached [unknowing that the Viceroy was actually his brother Yosef] and he said, Please My Master, allow your servant to speak in the ears of My Master and do not become angry at your servant for you are like Pharaoh.”

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, z”l, in the “New Hirsch Chumash” on our Parshat comments on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 44, posuk 18 (pages 810-811):

Yehudah says to [the Viceroy] Yosef: “I will not appeal to your emotions but to your intellect, your reasoned judgement.”

Yehudah says to Yosef: I hope that what I have to say will not antagonize you for you are like Pharaoh. If I say something that does not please you, do not think that I said it out of disrespect. What I say to you I would say to Pharaoh.

“Chumash Mesorot HaRav”, The Chumash with Commentary Based on the Teachings of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik z”l quotes from our Parshat Vayigash (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 44, posukim 18 – 19):

“Yehudah approached him [the Viceroy]…. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?'”

In his Chumash commentary, Rav Soloveitchik cites a cheder Rebbe from his youth indicating that the purpose of the Viceroy’s [Yosef’s] question was:

“…Whether his brothers were still attached to their roots and origins? Are you… rooted in your father?… Do you see your father as the foundation of your existence?… Or are you just like rootless shepherds wandering from place to place, … who forgot their origin?”

R’ Pliskin continues by citing his Rebbe, the late Rosh HaYeshiva of Brisk in Yerushalayim who explained Yehudah’s speech to the Viceroy in two ways (Growth Through Torah, page 119-120):

Even though Yehudah thought… [the Viceroy] did not understand the language he was speaking, he wanted him to hear the depth of feeling behind his words. Even if one does not speak the language, sincerity will come through. “Words that come from a person’s heart enter the heart of the listener.”

The second idea…, was that when you try to influence someone, it is imperative that he [or she] be open to what you have to say. If a person is close-minded and has made up… [their] mind not to pay attention to you, nothing you will say will influence… [them]. Therefore, Yehudah asked… [the Viceroy] to at least give him a fair hearing. “Keep your ears open to the possibility that what I will say has merit.”

Upon hearing Yehudah’s plea regarding the special love affection which Yaakov had for Binyamin, Yosef could no longer restrain himself and revealed himself as he cried out so loudly that he was heard by Pharaoh.

Yehudah, not knowing who he was really talking to, and fathoming all of the power of Pharaoh was behind the Viceroy’s edicts and actions, he had to measure his words just right, just so.

But in today’s world where communications between people are all-to-often reduced to written text and even single-letter words — twitter-style over any number of different chat platforms via computer, cellphone, i-phone, i-pad, etc., not as in the not-too-distant past where communications took place face-to-face and mouth- to-mouth, or by telephone, any textual word or phrase can be strung or understood all out of proportion to how either writer meant them. One person’s joke or light-hearted comment can be misinterpreted by the other person as judgementalness, rebuke, repudiation or worse.

Yosef’s emotions were aroused to the point of tears and crying out by Yehudah’s sincerity and because the brothers had shown, by their rising to the defense of Binyamin, that they had genuinely recognized their aveirah, had done teshuvah, showed true, sincere and serious contrition for what they done to Yosef and were unified in their concern for Binyamin’s welfare. Yosef embraced his brothers and comforted them and “told them not to be sad that they had sold him, for Hashem had actually sent him here to keep them alive during the years of famine.” (L’lMod Ulamed, Parshat Vayigash, page 57).

This unity displayed by the brothers was crucial for the future travails of enslavement in Mitzrayim as the Jewish nation was forged.

But, in our time, the type of unity, sincerity, heartfelt love of one’s brother expressed by Yehudah, and the other brothers, for their brother Benyamin with hearts filled with sincere and serious contrition for their previous sin seems lacking amongst B’nai Yisrael.

Could it be that many of the same types who profess to express contrition in requesting the forgiveness of their Gush Katif brethren replicated the same deed by standing by silently as a second Amona expulsion and destruction took place by edict of Israel’s “justice (sic) system.”

We seem not to have learned the brother’s lesson yet.

But, in a sense, the political modern-day protexia-class hellenists have learned more than we have — they know our weaknesses intimately and they know how to divide and conquer us by virtue of our own machlokesim (internal disputes/ disagreements). Each sector seems set against the other with little if any effort by any of the sectors to sit together and sincerely thrash out the unity and consensus which is crucial to overcome a Hellenistic regime and to ultimately restore Torah Halachic justice as law of the land.

Are we, in our time, chayev to be asked, as R’ Soloveitchik’s cheder Rebbe asked: are we “still attached to our roots and origins? Or have we forgotten our roots?”

Torah’s account of the actions and teshuvah of Yehudah and the other brothers on behalf of their brother Binyamin serves as a paradigm for the genuine, heartfelt contrition — the kind of contrition and teshuvah soo vitally necessary amongst the sectors of the religious, the kind of action-backed contrition which needs to be expressed, in a sincere, consistent, unified way in order that those who beg forgiveness from the former residents of Gush Katif be accepted as genuine rather than symbolic — “symbolism over substance.”

And when we do our hishtadlut — action-backed contrition, Hashem will surely be with us, for as that saying goes, “Hashem helps those who help themselves.”

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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