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Torah Sparks

PARASHAT VAYIGASH
December 14, 2002 - 5763

Annual Cycle: Genesis 44:18 - 47:27 (Hertz, p. 169; Etz Hayim, p. 274)
Triennial Year II: 45:28 - 46:27 (Hertz, p. 172; Etz Hayim, p. 279)
Haftarah- Ezekiel 37:15 - 28 (Hertz, p. 178; Etz Hayim, p. 290)

Prepared by Rabbi Lee Buckman
Head of School, Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit

Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Torah Portion Summary

(44:18-34) Judah passionately pleads with Joseph to spare Benjamin for the sake of their aged father, offering himself in Benjamin's place.

(45:1-27) Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. He calms their fears, and sends them home to tell Jacob the good news and to bring him to Egypt.

(45:28-46:27) Jacob agrees to go down to Egypt to see Joseph. On the way, God speaks to Jacob in a vision, saying that He will accompany Jacob to Egypt. A list of the 70 people who went down to Egypt is given.

(46:28-30) Joseph and Jacob have a tearful reunion.

(46:30-47:10) Joseph appeals to Pharaoh to allow his family to settle in the region of Goshen. Pharaoh agrees. Jacob is presented to Pharaoh.

(47:11-27) Joseph's policies of distribution and rationing of food during the famine result in an increase in the wealth and power of the central government.

Torah Text Being Considered

"So Israel set out with all that was his, and he came to Beersheba, where he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God called to Israel in a vision by night: Jacob! Jacob! He answered, here. And He said, I am God, the God of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Josephis hand will close your eyes." (Gen. 46:1-4)

Commentaries:

  1. "Fear not!" The same reassurance was given to Abraham and to Isaac; it will be given to Moses as well. It is never preceded by a statement revealing their disquiet. The idea is that man's inner anxieties and fears, although unexpressed, are known to God. (Sarna in JPS Commentary on Gen. 46:3)
  2. Our Sages said: "And I shall glorify him" (Ex. 15:2). I shall accompany Him until I come with Him to His temple. This may be compared to a king whose son left him for foreign parts. Wherever his son went the king went too. So it was with Israel. When they went down into Egypt, the Divine presence accompanied them, as it is stated: "I will go down with thee into Egypt." When they left, the Divine presence accompanied them, as it is stated: "And I will surely bring thee up again." They went forth into the sea, the Divine presence accompanied them, as it is stated: "And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, accompanied them from behind." They went forth into the wilderness, the Divine presence accompanied them, as it is said: "And the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day to show them the way." (Mechilta)
  3. Said the Holy Blessed One to Moses: I said to their father Jacob: "I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will surely ring thee up again." Now I have come down here to bring out his descendants, in accordance with My promise to their forefather, Jacob. Where will I take them to? To the place from whence they came forth, to the land that I swore to their fathers, as it is written: "To bring them up out of that land" (Ex. 3:8) (Shemot Rabbah)
  4. "We find that it was only in the case of Jacob, and not of Abraham and Isaac, that God appeared in "visions of the night". This was because he was prepared to go and live outside the Holy Land. The Divine revelation came to him, at night, to show him that the Divine resets on Israel even in the nights, in the darkness of exile, as they stated: Wherever Israel was exiled, the Divine presence accompanied them. They were exile to Egypt, the Divine presence accompanied them to Babylon, the Divine Presence accompanied them. Regarding this, Psalm 20 observes: "The Lord answer thee in the day of trouble, the name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high." While they are in trouble and in the darkness of the night, the God of Jacob who was revealed to him at night, will set thee up on high. (Meshech Chochma)
  5. "This contains a wonderful promise for the very existence of the nation in Egypt, and the meaning of "your eyes"i is Jacobis desire and the special attribute that Jacob provides for this. It is interpreted in the portion of Vezot Haberachah (Deut. 33:28), Thus Israel dwells in safety (betach), alone (badad) is Jacob is abode ("ein," literally eye),in which eein Yaakovi means to dwell in safety, alone, with "betach" meaning to be at peace and with the attribute of love between man and his fellow, and "badad" means not to intermingle more than is necessary with the non-Jewish nations. "As regards "badad" Joseph endeavored with all his might that Israel not assimilate among the Egyptians. (Haiamek Davar)

For discussion:

Jacob learns that Joseph is still alive and says, "It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go down and see him before I die" (Gen. 45:28). In the next chapter, we read about Jacob's departure and arrival at Beersheba where he offers a sacrifice to God. God appears to him in a vision and tells him "fearnot to God down to Egypt." Yet, the text does not state that Jacob was afraid. What might have been the nature of his fear? Can we identify with those fears?


 
 
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