Monday, December 25, 2006

VaYigash 5631 First Ma'amar

At the end of parshas Mikeitz, Yosef frames his younger brother Binyamin. He decides that as a punishment he will keep Binyamin as a servant and free the rest of his brothers. In the beginning of our parsha, Yehudah tries to convince Yosef to take him instead of Binyamin. To this end he recounts the sequence of events from the brothers’ initial encounter with Yosef to the present.

The question that immediately presents itself is that Yehudah’s argument adds nothing that is not already known. He simply recounts the events leading up to the current situation. What is the point of this?

To answer this question it will help to first understand the fundamental difference between Yosef and Yehudah in their approach to serving God. In the second ma’amar of parshas VaYeishev 5631 the Sfas Emes explains, in the name of his grandfather the Chidushei HaRim that Yosef and Yehudah are archetypes of different kinds of tzadikim. Yosef was completely dedicated to God. In this sense, he was removed from the mundane. Yosef saw the Godliness that gives life to everything physical. In fact, the Sfas Emes tells us that Yosef actually represents this hidden Godliness. The Torah calls him the most consecrated of his brothers (Breishis 49:26). Yehudah, on the other hand, revealed the holiness in the mundane. The Torah tells us, regarding Yehudah, “May God hear Yehudah’s voice and bring him to his people.” (Devarim 33:7) The Chidushei HaRim understands this as an allusion to Yehudah bringing God to His people.

There are tzadikim who do not have many followers. They are very holy and removed from the world around them. This is Yosef’s approach. On the other hand, there are tzadikim who have many followers. Their work is in influencing as many people as possible. They bring holiness into the mundane. This is Yehudah’s approach.

What did Yehudah gain by simply rehashing the recent events? The Chidushei HaRim explains that Jews are called Yehudim in Hebrew, after Yehudah. The name Yehudah comes from the root word hoda’a which means “thanks” and “admission.” Jews are called Yehudim because we thank God for everything, large and small. We know that everything comes from Him.

Yehudah understood that everything, even the most difficult situation, is from God. Yehudah knew that to be saved he would have to approach the level of Yosef. On this level he was able to approach Yosef, who represented the actual Godliness hidden in this world. The way he raised himself to Yosef’s level was by repeating the sequence of events leading to the present difficult situation, admitting and accepting, at each step, that it was all from God. The hidden Godliness within the events was thus revealed. The greatest good we can aspire to, is coming close to God himself. Therefore, revelation itself is redemption. That is why immediately following Yehudah’s argument, the Torah tells us that Yosef was no longer able to contain himself and he revealed himself to his brothers. Once the Godliness was revealed, the brothers were saved.

The Torah is teaching us an important lesson. Any time we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we have the tools with which to save ourselves. We need to first understand that God is hidden in even the most difficult circumstances. Even if a person thinks that his own mistakes caused his current situation, (the Torah tells us that Yosef’s brothers blamed themselves for their predicament) when he recognizes that God is the life giving force behind his predicament and asks God for help, he will be answered.

No comments: