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Beit Hamidrash

Parshat Vayigash


" ". "Yosef harnessed his chariot and went to meet Israel his father, Yaakov, in Goshen, and he appeared to him, collapsed upon him, and he wept great deal."...


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"Yosef harnessed his chariot and went to meet Israel his father, Yaakov, in Goshen, and he appeared to him, collapsed upon him, and he wept great deal."

Rashi presents a very interesting Midrash in connection with this verse:

"Yosef increased and added in his crying, more than the norm. But it is not indicated that Yaakov did the same, nor did Yaakov kiss him. Our Rabbis said it is because he was reciting Shema."

The Maharal raises the following point: "why didn't Yosef, too, recite the Shema? For if it was time to say Shema, he should have said it with his father, and if it wasn't time to say Shema, why was Yaakov reciting the Shema and not allowing himself to get emotional- not even a little, at this anticipated reunion!"

A separate issue in the Parasha might help shed some light:

" " - "And when Yaakov saw the wagons which Yosef had sent for them, his spirit came back to him" (Bereshit 45:27)

What was it about the wagons that revived Yaakov's sprit?  Rabbi Levi Yitzchak from Berditchev, in his "Kedushat HaLevi", explains: "And he saw the wagons that Yosef sent" hinted to Yaakov that he need not worry about the exile, for it is the reason for the redemption, just as evil is the reason for goodness. And the wagons () are from the root "" [round, circle] ..." Yosef sent Yaakov a message via the wagons. All the events that happened to Yaakov- all came , meaning in a round about manner, with complications and ordeals.

Yaakov, according to the Midrash, asked to settle quietly in the land of Canaan. Yaakov thought that he had finally found tranquility, and from here he would be able to live out his life in peace. But, according to this Midrash, his request was not granted.

In this world, there are things that happen, simply and clearly, and calmly. Nevertheless, the large-scale events usually happen with complications and twists - with . It is the largest acts of redemption that are fraught with complicated maneuvers.  The Galut, explains the Kedushat Halevi, is the cause of the Geulah, just as evil is the cause for good and catastrophe is the reason for revival. It is all ONE long, complex, rounded process which Am Yisrael must go through.


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"There is no brighter light than the light that is emitted from out of the darkness".

This idea is summarized in Psalm 23 in Tehillim:

" - . "  - "Even as I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will not fear evil as you, God, are alongside me.  Your rod and your staff comfort me." 

The rod and the staff are one. The blows we may receive from Hashem along the way are part of his shepherd's supervision. The Shepherd guides us " - with justice, but with complications and twists. We understand that there are "complications with justice". There is a direction and a reason for everything, guidance, and a Shepherd who is looking over us. The blows we receive are for our own sake, and return us to safe pastures.

According to the Maharal, that is the reason why Yaakov recited the Shema upon seeing Yosef. He was able to see the big picture. That is why he said: "Hear oh Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is ONE". Yaakov, at that moment, internalized the message that everything that had happened to him and everything that would happen, the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, were not disconnected from each other. He realized that Hashem created darkness and created light, made peace and created war, and often, as the Kedushat HaLevi explains, all these occur with complications.

Yosef, on the other hand, did not need to say the Shema. The complexities of life were something he realized several years previously. In his prophetic dreams he foresaw where all paths led, and that in every seemed complication there was Divine supervision. Even in the pit filled with scorpions and spiders, and in the prison in the house of Pharaoh, Yosef saw the hand of Hashem there with him.

Saying the Shema, from the time it was said by Rabbi Akiva at the moment of his death, has become the symbol of '. Even in the middle of atrocity, Rabbi Akiva knew to put things in greater perspective, just as he knew to laugh when he saw a fox emerge from the ruins of the Beit Hamikdash. He was aware and had faith that just as the negative part of the prophecy of destruction had taken place, so too would the prophecy of the complete redemption of the Land and the Nation of Israel.

Therefore, the recitation of the Shema by Yaakov, just as the recitation of the Shema by Rabbi Akiva, has impressed upon Am Yisrael the idea of Kiddush Hashem, even in times of extreme horror and darkness. In such times, all Jews recite:

" ' ' ".  Light and darkness, good and evil- all of them are rooted in the Ribbono Shel Olam. The source of our faith is that just as Hashem is our rod, He is also our staff, who loves His children for eternity. This insight provides our comfort.

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The fast day of Asara B'Tevet, the tenth day of Tevet, is also known as the World Kaddish Day, . It is a date in the calendar, set aside by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, dedicated to those who died ', sanctifying God's name. Throughout Israel, and the Jewish world,   )the mourner's prayer, recognizing the greatness of Hashem even in the midst of moments of personal or national grief) is said in memory of those who died in the Holocaust and whose date of death (yahrzeit) is unknown.