The Torah Portion of Vayigash
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"And Yehudah approached him and said, 'please...' " (Bereisheet 44:18)
The Alshich HaKodesh asks, what was Yehudah's complaint? Didn't he himself say that all of them would be slaves to Pharoah, so why did he change his mind and complain? All the moreso, Yosef had made it easier for them and said that only Binyamin would be taken as a slave. And the Alshich HaKodesh explains, that in the beginning Yehudah thought that they deserved all the suffering because of the selling of Yosef, but since he saw that the man only wanted to take Binyamin, he therefore decided that this was probably a false charge since Binyamin wasn't involved in the sale, and because of that he came to Yosef with complaints.
"For how can I go up to my father and the youth is not with me..." (Bereisheet 44:34)
There are those that explain this according to Mussar (Ethical Teachings), "how can I go up" after 120 years to Our Father in Heaven to give a judgment and accounting "and the youth is not with me", that is, the days of my youth have not been rectified and I damaged them? And it is necessary to learn from this to be concerned about guarding the days of youth when one is still young and able to correct everything easily.
"And it will happen that when he sees that the youth is gone, he will die..." (Bereisheet 44:31)
The Bait HaLevi explains that Yehudah said this, because he was concerned that Yosef would claim that if Yaakov was a Tzaddik (Righteous Man) in accord with what they had said, behold, when he would hear that his son Binyamin was a thief, his love for him would end and he would agree that it was appropriate to punish him so that he would be a permanent slave. Therefore, Yehudah hastened to say that immediately upon their return home when Yaakov would see that Binyamin was gone he would die immediately, and they wouldn't have sufficient time to tell him about what that Binyamin had done, and that is what it means by saying "when he sees that the youth is gone, he will die" -- immediately.
"...I am Yosef..." (Bereisheet 45:3)
The Chafetz Chaim says that the brothers had many questions about the difficult behavior of Yosef towards them and about the imprisonments, but when he said "I am Yosef" they immediately understood everything that had happened previously. So it will be in the future to come when the Glory of Heaven will be revealed, and the Holy One Blessed Be He will say "I am Hashem", then all of the hardships and sufferings that happened to the people of Israel during all the generations will be immediately understood.
"...I am Yosef..." (Bereisheet 45:3)
There are those Meforshim (expositors of the Scriptures) who ask, why didn't he reveal to them that he was Yosef immediately when they arrived? And they explain, that it was necessary to fulfill the dream that they would bow to him, and if he had revealed himself to them before that, they would have great embarrassment that they had to come to him and bow to him. And because they didn't recognize him they had less embarrassment from that.
"...I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?..." (Bereisheet 45:3)
It is written in the Midrash Saichel Tov, "Abba Kohen Bardela said 'Woe is us on the Day of Judgment, Woe is us on the Day of Reproof. If in the case of Yosef who was younger than the other brothers, his brothers were not able to answer him; in the future to come when Hashem judges every individual according to his deeds, all the moreso.' " It has been asked, what is the meaning of the words (in the preceding Midrash) "according to his deeds"? The explanation is that when a man will be asked in the Heavenly Court why he didn't give charity, and he will answer that he didn't have enough money, it will be said to him "Behold, for other things and even for inconsequential things you had money to waste, and only for charity not." Or if he will be asked in the Heavenly Court why he didn't learn Torah as much as he should have, and he will answer that he didn't have enough time because he was busy with his work, it will be said to him "Behold, on Shabbos and Yom Tov you had enough free time so why didn't you learn then?" And this is the explanation of "according to his deeds" -- for each and every individual it will be according to his situation and his level. And this is the meaning of the reproof that Yosef said to them "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" Behold, they were speaking all the time about their father, so doesn't it seem a strange question to ask them if his father were still alive? The explanation is that Yosef was rebuking them, as if to say, "If you are so worried about Father's welfare, why didn't you worry about him when you sold me, for behold you knew that Father loves me very much? And only now you are worried about him." And there are those that give another explanation, that Yosef thought that it was possible that in truth Yaakov had died, and they only wanted to arouse his mercy on them so that he would release Binyamin, and therefore they told him to release Binyamin because of the suffering of their father. Therefore he said to them, "I am Yosef, now tell me the truth, Is my father still alive?"
"And now, do not be distressed...because as a supporter of life G-d sent me ahead of you." (Bereisheet 45:5)
This presents a difficulty, for what sort of comfort for them was it that he said "as a supporter of life G-d sent me..."? Behold, they didn't have an intention for the good (when they sold him), and the Sages say (in Nazir 23a) that someone that intended to pick up a piece of pig (to eat) and ended up picking up a piece of lamb, needs atonement. The explanation is thus: the Sages said (Kiddushin 29b) that a thought doesn't cancel out a deed, but does cancel out a thought; and spoken words cancel out spoken words. And if so, when a person transgresses and does an intentional sin, and the damage was in deed as well as in thought because he performed the sin intentionally, the regret that he has in his thoughts as well as the speech when he repents and confesses are effective to uproot the thought which was connected with the sin, but the deed of the sin is not uprooted. But here, when the brothers regretted selling him and said "but we are guilty about our brother...therefore there has come upon us this distress", the bad thoughts were uprooted by means of the regret and also the confession that they said "but we are guilty about our brother". But even so, the brothers were worried that behold, the deed still remained. Therefore, Yosef said to them, "and now, do not be distressed", because also the deed is canceled, for behold, the deed was for the good "because as a support of life G-d sent me ahead of you". And also, Yosef himself was comforted from his suffering, because it was due to that suffering that he was made a ruler in all of the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt), (from R' Tzaddok HaKohen from Lublin)
"...and he appeared to him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a lot." (Bereisheet 46:29)
Rashi explains, "but Yaakov did not fall on Yosef's neck and did not kiss him...because he was reciting the Shema prayer". And the Meforshim (expositors of the Torah) ask, why wasn't Yosef reciting the Shema prayer if it was the time for reciting the Shema, for behold, there is one time for everyone to do it, and those who are alacritrous hurry to do it as soon as possible? And in addition, from where do we know that he (Yaakov) was reciting the Shema prayer, perhaps he was saying a different prayer? And the Maharal explains that it was not the time for reciting the Shema prayer, but when Yaakov saw Yosef his son ruling like a king after the great sorrow that he experienced over him, there came into his heart the love and fear of Hashem who had done this for him, and how His traits are good and perfect and He pays a good reward to those who fear Him, and he accepted His kingship and the love of Him and the fear of Him, and that is what is expressed in the recitation of the Shema prayer, in which is mentioned the unity of Hashem's heavenly kinghsip and the love of Hashem. And that is the character trait of those who are devoted to Hashem, when something good happens to them, they attach themselves to the Holy One Blessed Be He because of the goodness and truth that He did with them. And there are those who say, in the name of HaGri"z, that it's possible to say that it was the time for the recital of the Shema prayer, and that Yosef did not recite the Shema, because he was occupied with the Mitzvah of honoriing his father, and someone who is occupied with one Mitzvah is exempted from doing another Mitzvah.
"With whomsoever you find your gods, he shall not live..." (Bereisheet 31:32)
The Chafetz Chaim says that Yaakov said to Lavan "WIth whomsoever you find your gods, he shall not live", and because of that Rachel was punished and died on the way. And behold, we see that when Yosef's brothers came from Mitzrayim (Egypt) and told their father that the ruler of the land thought that they were spies and in addition commanded them to bring Binyamin, at that time Yaakov Avinu did not curse the ruler. On the contrary, he commanded to bring him presents, a little bit of honey, etc. And he prayed for them that they would find favor in the eyes of the man. And if Yaakov had brought out from his mouth words of cursing against the man that had spoken to them harshly, he would have killed his son Yosef whom he loved more than all his other sons. From this we see how we need to be careful not to express words of cursing from our mouths.
"And Yaakov said to Pharoah, 'The days of the years of my sojourning have been 130 years, few and bad have been the days of the years of my life...' (Bereisheet 47:9)
There are those that explain that because Yaakov came to Mitzrayim (Egypt) there was a blessing on the Nile River and the famine ceased. And Pharoah saw that Yaakov appeared to be a very old man and worried that he was going to die and the blessing would end, and therefore Pharoah asked Yaakov how many were the days of years of his life. And on this Yaakov answered him that the fact that he appeared old was only because of suffering, but with the help of Hashem he would live more years which would be good, and so it was that he lived another 17 years. [Translator's note: Note that the Gematria of Hebrew word for "good" (that is, "Tov") is 17.]
THE FAST OF THE TENTH OF TEVET
On the eighth day of Tevet, Talmei the king of Yavan (Greece) forced the Sanhedrin to write the Torah in the Greek language and the world was darkened for three days. The ninth of Tevet is the Yahrzheit of Ezra and Nechemia. On the tenth of Tevet the king of Bavel (Babylonia) besieged the city. It is written in the Abudaraham that if the tenth of Tevet fell on the day of Shabbat, they used to fast also on Shabbat, since it it written "specifically on that day". In the Chatam Sofer it is written that every year on the Tenth of Tevet it is judged in Heaven whether the exile will continue or whether the final redemption will come.
The Torah Portion of Vayigash has 106 verses.Haftora: "Vayehi D'var Hashem" (Yechezkel 37).
We say Borchi Nafshi.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772