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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Vayigash’

Vayigash: The Epic Confrontation Between Judah and Joseph

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Judah once allowed a son of Rachel to be taken, but in this week’s parsha, he offers to sacrifice himself instead of Benjamin, because Jacob’s soul is bound up in the soul of Benjamin. Where do we see the same language used centuries later? In this video, Rabbi Fohrman explores a fascinating Biblical echo and helps us answer, what is heroism?

This video is from Rabbi David Fohrman.

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Rabbi David Fohrman

TORAH SHORTS: Parshat Vayigash: Party Sacrifice of Peace

Thursday, January 5th, 2017
Up until the time of Jacob, the animal sacrifices that our ancestors brought to God were completely consumed by fire. The entire beast was burnt in a ceremony known in Hebrew as a Korban Olah. This act demonstrated a total submission and entreaty to God. It all went to God. Jacob does something different.
Jacob is informed that his beloved long-lost son Joseph was alive and not dead as he was lead to believe for twenty-two long years. As he rushes down to Egypt to reunite with Joseph, Jacob offers a different type of sacrifice, which is called Zevachim and also Shelamim (peace offerings). In this sacrifice, part of the animal is burnt upon the altar, but here man also partakes of the meat of the sacrifice.
In the words of Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 46:1:
“[The peace offerings] express a loftier concept, that of “God coming into our midst.” They are therefore offered in the happy awareness that wherever a family lives in harmony, is faithful to its duty and feels that it is being upheld by God, there God is present. That is why the spirit of the Shelamim, the “peace offerings” of a family life blessed by God, is so typically Jewish. The concept of surrendering to God and permitting oneself to be absorbed by Him has begun to dawn also upon non-Jewish minds. But the thought that everyday life can become so thoroughly pervaded by the spirit of God that “one eats and drinks and while doing so, beholds God,” that all our family rooms become temples, our table altars, and our young men and young women priests and priestesses – this spiritualization of everyday personal life represents the unique contribution of Judaism.”
“The reason why Jacob-Israel at this point did not offer a Korban Olah, but Zevachim, is that now, for the first time, Jacob felt happy, joyous and “complete” (“Shalem” in Hebrew also means “complete” or “whole”) within the circle of his family. It was under the impact of this awareness and this emotion that he made a “family offering” to God.”
Part of the point of the Shelamim sacrifice was to share it with family and friends in a festive celebratory spirit: to consecrate the meal, to make the meal itself holy and have God as part of the celebration.
May we have many causes of celebration and holy festivities.
Shabbat Shalom


Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Vayigash: Yosef‘s Invitation in to Exile

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Why did Yosef tell his brothers to bring his father down to Egypt? We know that leaving the land of Israel was not something taken lightly by the forefathers. It was done in times of famine and only as a last resort. According to Ramban – at least in the case of Avraham – it should not even have even been a last resort.

That Yosef wanted to see his father again is understandable and it could be that Yosef could not have left Egypt to do that. This could be for at least one of two reasons: 1) He could not be spared in the running of Egypt’s affairs in this time of crisis (Abarbanel); or 2) Pharaoh didn’t want to take any chances that he would stay in Israel permanently. Still, it is far from clear that Yosef’s desire to see his father justifies the latter’s displacement from the land of Israel. Another possible explanation would be that the family could not have sustained themselves in Israel and was brought down to save them. Indeed, Yosef basically says as much. But this is not obvious – what is really not possible for Yosef to send provisions to Israel? Several commentators follow Ramban in suggesting that the reason he could not do so is that it would have raised suspicions about his loyalty to Egypt. Hence he tells his father that staying put in a famine that was to last another five years would bring him to poverty. Yet we read of many lovers of Zion that have been prepared to live a life of poverty rather than move from God’s holy place. Even without Divine intervention – which in the case of the forefathers is the default – it is hard to believe that Ya’akov’s family would have starved to death (statements by Ya’akov, Yehudah and Yosef otherwise appearing to be mere hyperbole). So what truly moved Yosef to give such problematic instructions?

R. Moshe Alshich may be the only major classical commentator to confront the fact that there really is no justification on the peshat level. Hence, he offers an answer that relies upon suppositions not based in the text, positing that both Yosef and Ya’akov knew that there would soon be a need for an exile different than the one they experienced up until now in the land of Israel. That being the case, better the exile start under the sponsorship of Yosef than in more precarious circumstances.

Following midrash, Rav Alshich formalizes an idea that is actually used in the text itself when Yosef tells his brothers that it is really God who is in charge of how things turn out. Yosef justified his brothers by claiming that their selling him was all orchestrated by fate. Interestingly, this observation boomerangs and justifies his own actions as well. No doubt, Yosef was not faced with an easy choice. Ramban notwithstanding, both Avraham and Yitzchak thought of moving to Egypt in times of famine. That it was not the ideal is obvious, but we can understand Yosef’s belief that it should certainly be considered. What made him able to be so ready to do go for it, however, was the very approach that he employed in soothing his brothers. If he was right, he would be doing what was expected of him. If he was wrong, God would limit the consequences of his mistake. In the best case scenario, it would even end up being advantageous.

The brothers had made a wrong decision about Yosef. While it made sense at the time, they are inconsolable. Like a breath of fresh air, Yosef tells them that this in not the road to take. And before they can even weigh the merits of his words, Yosef makes a seemingly impetuous decision of his own – to have his father come down to Egypt. By doing so, he was showing them that once a difficult decision is made, it is already in the past. And once in the past, we have no choice but to leave it up to God.

Making decisions without looking back is not only a good leadership skill, it is a reflection of living in the shadow of God. While this doesn’t exonerate one from doing one’s best to pursue the correct course of action, it brings about a certain modesty in understanding that the results of our actions are subject to Divine control. While there is an important place for reflecting about past mistakes, that is only with regards to preparing ourselves to do better in the future. There is no place, however, for fretting about the consequences of the past. This is the liberating idea that Yosef is able to teach his brothers once he finally reveals himself to them. And it is with this insight into the nature of faith that the rift between these men of faith is ultimately healed.

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Political Midrash Reveals what Kerry and Netanyahu Really Said

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: It’s good to have you again, Secretary of State John Kerry. John, you’re a welcome friend, and it’s good to welcome you back in Jerusalem.

 OMG, you again, Kerry! With friends like you, who needs enemies? Did you know that “Shalom” also means “good-bye”? So, shalom and get lost.

Secretary Kerry: Thank you, my friend. Well, Mr. Prime Minister, my friend, Bibi, I am very, very happy to be back in Israel. It’s always a pleasure for me to visit. And I have visited here so many times, as a United States Senator, and now as a Secretary of State.

Same to you, Jew boy. Believe me, I have better things to do than let you waste my time. I have visited Israel so much I almost feel like a Jew. Enough already. And I sick of falafel. So just shut up and sign the peace pact so I can visit Dubai. The hotels are fancier there.

Netanyahu:. We believe that in a final deal, unlike the interim deal, it’s crucial to bring about a final agreement about determination of Iran’s military and nuclear capability. I have expressed my concern since Geneva that the sanctions would begin to unravel, and I think steps must be taken to prevent further erosions of sanctions.

 We trust the United States will sell us down the river in a final deal with Iran like it did in the interim deal.

Kerry: With respect to the sanctions, we will obviously be vigilant. We say to any country that contemplates moving ahead of sanctions, don’t, because those sanctions will continue to be enforced. The fundamental sanctions regime of oil and banking remains absolutely in place. It is not changed, and we will be stepping up our efforts of enforcement through the Treasury Department and through the appropriate agencies of the United States.

 The United States is easing up sanctions on Iran because that is one of the reasons Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Netanyahu: Now, on the Palestinian issue, I want to say that Israel is ready for historic peace, and it’s a peace based on two states for two peoples.  Now, if this process is going to continue, we’re going to have to have a continual negotiation. And I hope the Palestinians are committed to this goal as well.

 Israel is ready for peace based on one state of Israel for two peoples – Ashkenazim and Sephardim. You want us to have peace with the Palestinian Authority? Move it  to Jordan.

Kerry: When I first came here – I think in 1986 – I spent a week and traveled to every part of the country, climbed Masada, bathed in the Dead Sea, went to Galilee, the north, visited Kiryat Shmona, where kids were having to hide from rockets, Katyusha rockets, then indiscriminately attacking them from Lebanon. And I have seen the rockets in Sderot from people who were taking cover from Gaza.

So I understand the challenge of security that Israel faces. I understand it very well. And I join with President Obama in expressing to the people of Israel our deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel and to the need to find a peace that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and recognizes Israel as a country that can defend itself by itself.

I climbed Masada and almost had a heart attack. I bathed in the Dead Sea, visited the Galilee and Negev where I saw with my very own eyes children. Therefore, I am an expert on Israel’s security. Obama and I are committed to Israel’s security based on Israel’s Jewish majority. Therefore, we will help defend Tel Aviv, at least until the Bedouin take that over, too.

Netanyahu: I want to thank you, John, for your tireless effort. I use that word carefully, “tireless” and indefatigable. You continue to pursue this quest for peace. I appreciate it, and I welcome it. And I also welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions this evening and tomorrow and beyond. So welcome to Jerusalem, again.

Kerry, get lost. I am sick and tired of your tireless effort to screw us, and I welcome the opportunity for you to leave – forever.

Kerry: I believe we are making some progress, and the parties remain committed to this task. Once again, Israel’s security is fundamental to these negotiations. General John Allen – President Obama has designated him to play a very special role in assessing the potential threats to Israel., General Allen and I provided Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military leadership with some thoughts about that particular security challenge.

The peace talks are dead because Israel insists on its remaining in existence. I am here with General Allen, Obama’s pawn who left Afghanistan in the hands of terrorists and who came here to teach Netanyahu a thing or two about war, which America almost never has had to fight on its own ground.

I look forward to visiting the Palmachim Airbase because I want to see firsthand the remarkable ballistic missile defense technologies in place that our nation has spent over 20 years building with our friends here in Israel in order to protect Israel. And the advancement of these programs in recent years I think is a reflection of President Obama’s and his Administration’s strong commitment, unwavering commitment, to Israel’s security.

I will visit the base of missile defense systems that the United States has helped build to make sure you guys think you can’t do without America. Our aid shows our commitment to keeping the U.S. military-industrial complex alive and healthy.

The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. And while occasionally we might have a difference of a tactical measure, we do not have a difference about the fundamental strategy that we both seek with respect to the security of Israel and the long-term peace of this region.

Thank you, Prime Minister.

Our eternal ties with Israel will last so long as Bibi does what we tell him to do. Sure, we have a few differences. When Obama says, “Bibi, jump in the lake, there is a question of whether he does it foot first or head first. I think Israeli can decide for itself how to drown.

Thank you, Prime Minister, for this lovely photo-up. You really are better looking than Catherine Aston, but that doesn’t say very much.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

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