Friday, December 25, 2009

Parshat Vayigash - פרשת ויגש

"וְלֹא-יָכֹל יוֹסֵף לְהִתְאַפֵּק, לְכֹל הַנִּצָּבִים עָלָיו, וַיִּקְרָא, הוֹצִיאוּ כָל-אִישׁ מֵעָלָי; וְלֹא-עָמַד אִישׁ אִתּוֹ, בְּהִתְוַדַּע יוֹסֵף אֶל-אֶחָיו - Then Yoseph could not endure (/refrain himself) before all them that stood by him; and he cried: 'Remove every man from before me.' And there stood no man with him, while Yoseph made himself known unto his brothers."
(בראשית מה:א)

This verse comes at the very height of the drama of Yosef's story. It is at this point, having heard how his now-elderly father was so deeply troubled by his disappearance, that Yosef decides that has had enough and opts to reveal himself to his brothers.

Rashi's commentary on this verse explains that "לא היה יכול לסבול שיהיו מצריים נצבים עליו ושומעין שאחיו מתבישין בהועדו להם - He could not bear that there should be Egyptians standing before him and hearing that his brothers are shamed, when he makes himself known to them." It is abundantly clear from these words that Yoseph was suddenly overcome with the realisation that the game was over; that his brothers truly regretted their actions, and that there was no need to torture himself, or them, any longer.

If we put ourselves in Yoseph's shoes, we can imagine how it would have felt like for the duration of his twenty-two years away from his siblings. Yoseph knew that his prophetic vision of his family being subordinate to him was not a false one, and understood that the day would eventually come when he would see them again. When they finally did come to him, he did not reveal himself straight away. We can only imagine how tortuous it must have been for Yoseph to wait to reveal his identity to the brothers he loved so much.

At the same time, as the Yalkut Lekach Tov points out, Rabbi Yehudah Loeb Chasman writes in his work, Or Yahel, that Yoseph's feelings weren't just of love - he must have been acutely aware that the last time he spoke with his siblings on a brother-to-brother basis, he was cast into a pit to die, before being "saved" and sold to Yishamaelite traders as a slave.

I know that if I had been cast out of my family for having a seemingly wacky dream, I would probably have gently poked fun: "See, you do all have to worship me now!" But this was the farthest thing from Yoseph's mind. Amidst these crushing emotions, Yoseph held his nerve. While most people in Yoseph's position would have outed themselves there and then, Yoseph remained aware to the needs of his brothers. Even though he was deperate to rejoin his family, and even though he had reason to fear for his life, Yoseph had the presence of mind to order all the courthands out of the room. Despite the fact that ordering all his subjects out of the courtoom meant that he was left alone with potential murderers, Yoseph did the best he could to prevent himself from embarassing his brothers publicly, even if it meant costing him his life.

I don't think that I need to write much more - I just hope that we may we all learn the lesson Yoseph teaches us here, and that even in the most trying times, we may remain aware of our friends' feelings.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!

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