Parshat Vayigash 5784: The Contrast Between Teshuvah and Unity, and Today’s Divisiveness

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Vayigash is being co- sponsored by Moshe and Rachel Lichtenstein of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for health, success and happiness for the entire Lichtenstein family, and by an anonymous co-sponsor. Both co-sponsors also dedicate Parshat Vayigash for Israel’s total victory and eradication of Hamas and their terrorist buddies, safe return of all chayalim — physically, mentally and spiritually, and liberation of all hostages held by the Wild Beasts. To the Lichtenstein family and to our anonymous sponsor, blessings and many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

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 5784: The Contrast Between 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 forced upon our former Gush Katif and Shomron brethren despite our votes, protests and efforts against it, and the disastrous, catastrophic current events which it has wrought over the past nearly three months.

Over the past 18 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 of our brethren, some of whom either previously supported the expulsion or who sat on their hands and did nothing, who now voice regret in light of the barbaric attack by Hamas on Simchat Torah. And every so often we hear a military general, or a major party leader voice regret over the expulsion as a major strategic blunder which the ultimate result we have now experienced — mass murder of civilians in barbaric fashion, as well as infiltrations through countless terror tunnels and massive rocket attacks of Israel’s southern Gaza border towns, from which the enemy has wreaked devastation upon us dwarfing all the previous attacks from either Gaza or from Hezbollah in South Lebanon.

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?

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 to English 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.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 44, posuk 18 rendered to English in Growth Through Torah, page 120)

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 being judgemental, as rebuke, repudiation or worse.

Rabbi Mordechai Katz writes, in his Sefer “L’lMod Ulamed” on our Parshat Vayigash:

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 has seemed lacking amongst B’nei Yisrael. However, in view of this war of Simchat Torah, have we finally learned the brother’s lesson? Will the heretofore divisive sectors have finally found peace and permanent unity which would carry forward to the “day after” this tragic war ends with Israel’s victory and liberation of the hostages? Will these sectors sit together and sincerely thrash out the unity and consensus which is crucial to ultimately restore strategic deterence and 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?” Said another way, just as the Nazis made no distinction between religious Jews, secular Jews or Jewish athiests, so too, the Arab Islamist terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PA, Hezbollah and other terrorist Yishma’elim as well as Iran, Qatar, Yemen make no distinction between religious Jews, secular Jews or Jewish athiests. This author recognizes who the audience is receiving this vort weekly by email. But this message is for the Merav Michaelis, Ya’ir Lapids, Avigdor Leibermans, Esther Hayut, Aharon Barak, Ehud Barak, etc.:

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. So, we had all better get tuned in to our roots, origins and Unify!

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 all sectors, including the religious, to bring about a permanent national unity. And when we do our hishtadlut — action-backed contrition and unity, 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 re-settled in Gush Katif, once the IDF, by the Yad Hashem, destructs and eradicates Hamas, Hezbollah, and if necessary Iran, and that our brethren be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense. May our Chayalim return from battle unharmed — physically, mentally and spiritually and may all of the hostages brutally taken by the wild beasts of Hamas be liberated and returned to their families. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine 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 see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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.