Thoughts on Parashat Vayigash

Thoughts on Parashat Vayigash



The precious moment had arrived. Finally, after so many years of separation, father and son were to be reunited. Rashi explains the above posuk that Yoseph appeared to Yaakov, and Yoseph fell upon Yaakov’s shoulders and wept for a long while.

The Ramban asks on Rashi’s interpretation, for what purpose did the posuk state that Yoseph appeared to Yaakov? This is superfluous! Since the latter half of the verse states that Yosef fell upon his father’s shoulders, it is patently obvious that Yoseph appeared to his father!

Perhaps the answer to the Ramban’s question on Rashi lies within Rashi itself. Rashi may be teaching us a deep insight into the greatness of Yosef, and informing us of a hitherto unknown and difficult nisayon that Yoseph was confronted with and able to overcome. Let us first dramatize the scenario. Imagine the longing and wistful emotions that Yoseph, after twenty-two years of separation, felt for his father. The psukim themselves describe Yoseph’s constantly asking as to the welfare of his father on every occasion that his brothers came to Egypt. Indeed, the very first question that Yoseph posed to his brothers upon revealing himself was, “Is my father still alive?” When Yaakov Avinu finally arrived in Egypt, Yoseph’s heart was surely pounding within him as he longed and awaited that most precious of all moments, to see his holy father. Any son in this situation would yearn to see his father. How much more so must Yoseph have longed to see his holy father, who was one of the Patriarchs of Israel. Surely, Yaakov Avinu’s heart was also pounding and awaiting that dearest and most precious of moments, when he would be able to lay his eyes upon his beloved son, Yoseph. Yoseph, was the son that he had loved so much, and whom he had chosen to be the recipient of the entire Torah that he had received.

This being the case, Yoseph was faced with an incredible dilemna. His heart gushed with two conflicting emotions. Although he himself longed with every ounce of emotion to see his father, thereby satisfying his own personal needs, he realized that he had an obligation of kibud Av to be seen by his father in order to satisfy Yaakov’s desire to see him. The ultimate degree of Kibud Av would dictate that Yoseph’s appearance before his father be one of being seen by his father solely for the purpose of satisfying his father. Any other intent, one of satisfying his own desire to see his father would detract from the Mitzvah of Kibud Av. Thus Yoseph would have to gather and amass all his passions and emotions, directing them to be seen by his father, thereby fulfilling the Mitzvah of honoring his father, and temporarily suppressing his own natural instinctive desire to see his father. There is no room in the heart of a human being to simultaneously fully accomplish these two contradictory emotions. Yoseph focused and concentrated all his energies to ensure, that his appearance before Yaakov was solely to satisfy his father’s burning desire and longing to see him.

Thus Yoseph HaTzaddik was thrust in the midst of a new, unknown and difficult nisayon – test. His natural impulsive need was to see his father. On the other hand, his pure and holy character demanded that he disregard his own needs and wants, and focus only on satisfying his father’s desires.

The Ramban’s question on Rashi is now beautifully resolved. “[Yoseph] appeared to his father” is neither unnecessary nor superfluous. Rashi is teaching that this posuk is informing us of the greatness and holiness of Yosef HaTzaddik. Yoseph, in the midst of this fierce battle raging within his heart, did not allow his personal desires to see his father, encroach upon his feelings to be seen by his father solely for his father’s benefit. He restrained himself, stifling incredibly powerful feelings and emotions. Thus we see the herculean feat and incredible greatness of Yosef HaTzaddik. He was in full control of the most delicate and sensitive emotions gushing within his heart.

May we realize the tremendous capacity inherent within the yidisheh neshama. Many times, we may be faced with a situation where a Mitzvah or action can be performed with two different intents. The exact same action can be done with entirely different intentions. For example, one could perform a Mitzvah entirely leshaim shamayim, or one could perform it because of the honor that one receives from it. Within each of us lies the ability to suppress and restrain one intention or emotion, and develop the other proper one, thus emulating the actions of Yoseph HaTzadik. May we realize that we have the ability to regulate and control the deepest emotions and feelings lying within us, whether they be love or hate, anger or jealousy, or desires and temptations.

May we be zoche to fulfill our obligation to reach for the stars and say; “When will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers”…Amen.

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