Friday, December 30, 2011

VaYigash 5632 First Ma'amar

Many times we find ourselves in situations that appear bleak.  We search for a solution, a way out but fail to find one.  We are stuck.  What can we do?  Chazal[1] understand the story of Yehuda’s meeting with Yosef as just such a situation.  We can learn from Yehuda what to do.

Chazal base their understanding on a pasuk in Mishlei (6:1-3), “בני אם ערבת לרעך תקעת לזר כפיך: נוקשת באמרי פיך ... עשה זאת אפוא בני והנצל ... לך התרפס ורהב רעיך:/My son, if you have been a guarantor for your friend, if you have given your handshake to a stranger, you have been trapped by the words of your mouth … Do this, therefore, my son, and be rescued ... Go humble yourself before him, and placate your fellow.”

Chazal understand this pasuk metaphorically as referring to Yehuda.  He made himself a guarantor for Binyamin.  He promised his father that he would bring Binyamin back.  He was in a situation in which this looked like an impossible task.  The viceroy of the most powerful country in the world was about to take Binyamin for a slave.  What could he do?  The Midrash tells us, “Go humble yourself before Him …”  Humble yourself before God.

The Sfas Emes teaches that man was created in order to bring the entire Creation closer to God.  In the garden of Eden, this was obvious to Adam.  It was obvious that the purpose was to connect with God.  However, after his sin and banishment from Gan Eden, this fact became much less obvious.  It is not at all obvious to most of us.  In the words of the pasuk, “We have given our handshake to a stranger.”  This refers to the desire and lust to become involved in things that are not good, that distance us from God.  These desires color our perception.  We find this clearly in a pasuk in Iyov (34:11), “כי פועל אדם ישלם לו .../For He repays a man according to his deeds …”

A classic example of this was the sale of Yosef.  When the brothers sold Yosef, they distanced themselves from brotherly love.  As a result, when they met Yosef in Egypt, he seemed to them to be an enemy.  Yet, he was just Yosef, their brother.  They were living with a false perception resulting from their own actions.  There was no way they could see the truth – that Yosef was standing before them, not an enemy – until they fixed the underlying cause of this false perception.

The only thing to do, Chazal teach, is to acknowledge and accept God.  This is what Yehuda did.  The first pasuk of our parsha is, “ויגש אליו יהודה ויאמר בי אדוני .../Yehuda approached him and said, please my master …”  Chazal understand that this pasuk is referring not only to Yehuda approaching Yosef.  On a deeper level, it is referring to Yehuda approaching God.  Yehuda realized that the only way out of this terrible situation was to acknowledge God in it.  He did this to the extent that he was ready to sacrifice his own life to save Binyamin.

The result was, “ולא יכול יוסף להתאפק .../Yosef could not contain himself …”  The plain meaning is that Yosef was unable to continue the charade.  He was forced to reveal himself.  However, on a deeper level, Yosef represents the hidden spirituality within everything[2].  That spirituality is hidden in this world.  The physical that hides it seems to have a separate, autonomous existence, God forbid.  By acknowledging and accepting that this is not the case but rather that God is truly here with us and in every thing and every action, we merit a deeper perception of the truth.  “Yosef” is automatically revealed.

Yehuda had no idea from where salvation would come.  He just knew that he had to acknowledge God in the situation.  This is true for every single situation in which we find ourselves.  We give the physical world around us a reality that it does not deserve and then find ourselves in situations of our own making.  They are essentially self-created illusions. We no longer see the truth but rather a projection of what we think is the truth.

Chazal advise us to acknowledge God in everything and the truth will automatically be revealed to us.  May we merit it!

[1] Breishis R. 93:1
[2] The Zohar teaches that Yosef is the “keeper of the covenant.”  He represents the bris which is hidden by the orlah.  He is the Tzadik Yesod Olam and the kabalists teach us that Yosef is represented by the sefira of Yesod which also represents the bris milah.


Anonymous said...

to say that Yehuda, when he
approached Yosef, approached God,
seems but to serve the chassidic
notion of the "tzadik"; why would
Yehuda need the intermediary? why
couldn't he, immediately after the
sack search for example(44:12),
approach God directly?

Moshe David Tokayer said...

The Sfas Emes is not teaching us that Yehuda approached God through Yosef. The Sfas Emes is teaching us what one is supposed to do when he has a seemingly intractable problem. He is supposed to approach God directly. This is what Yehuda did.

Yosef is a metaphor for the spiritual that is hidden in and by the physical. The Torah is teaching us, through this story, that the way to reveal the hidden spirituality is by acknowledging God in the situation, even if He is not apparent. The hester will shed and we will merit seeing the underlying light.

Yehuda most probably did approach God directly at the sack search. The Torah does not need to tell us a blow by blow of what happened. It just needs to tell us what we need to know to be able to take a lesson and apply it to our own lives.

Anonymous said...

if "Yehuda most probably did
approach God directly at the sack
search", then why didn't he recognize Yosef at once upon return to Yosef's house, 44:14?
shouldn't Yosef have been
"automatically revealed" at that point (& during Yehuda's prior
contacts with the viceroy, if Yehuda acknowledged God earlier)?

why specifically at Yehuda's approach to the viceroy speak of
"acknowledging God in the situation", rather than for example
at 43:19("vayigshu")/43:20("bi adoni"), if not but to highlight
the 'tzadik''s role?

Moshe David Tokayer said...

You are making a good point. It's just that the Sfas Emes does not mention nor allude to the notion of approaching God through the "tzadik" in this parsha. He teaches very specifically that we must acknowledge Hashem in the situation.

It could well be that even though Yehuda may have acknowledged Hashem earlier, it was not enough. He had to actually bring himself to a level of mesirus nefesh/sefl sacrifice. This he did only when he agreed to take Binyamin's place. The Sfas Emes writes this explicitly.

Anonymous said...

but wasn't the collective
approach of all the brothers but Shimon in 43:19-20, pesukim with the SAME CUE words that Chazal seized in 44:18, an equal or greater acknowledgement of God than Yehuda's individual mesirus nefesh? (maybe Chazal didn't approve of "ha'ish" that the brothers approached, like they
approved of Yosef ha'tzadik'?)

maybe one can say that indeed, in the earlier case, "Shimon" was
"automatically revealed"(43:23)! (note Yaakov's remark, 42:36,
"yosef einenu v'shimon einenu")
the question then becomes, what does Shimon represent (while Yosef
"represents the hidden spirituality
within everything")? and what does
"ha'ish" in charge of Yosef's house
represent? and what then is the meaningful difference here between
talking face-to-face (to ha'ish), & talking into the ears/"b'aznei" (of Yosef)?

Anonymous said...

might we say that Shimon represents
having God's ear, as in 29:33 by Leah? once he is automatically revealed/returned to the brothers, Yehuda can speak even "b'aznei" the viceroy (with whom--"ki chamocha k'faroh" 44:18--Hashem has shared His glory, "l'basar v'dam");
thus when Yosef withheld Shimon, he withheld Heaven's ears from the
klal, midah k'neged midah for the
brothers refusal to hear Yosef's
pleas at the pit (42:21);
because "ha'ish" heard Yosef's daily heartfelt prayers, that same ish was ready to hear in the brothers' "bi adoni", an earnest acknowledgement of God...

Anonymous said...

thus while Yosef represents the
hidden spirituality that Hashem
spoke into everything, Shimon
represents His hearing that very
spirituality from everything, in
(universal) acknowledgement of Him (tehillim 148)...