Sichos in English
Parshas VaYigash; 9th of Teives, 5750
The names of the different Torah portions express the nature of each of these
portions, and include the entire portion within them. This week, the entire
portion is characterized by the word "VaYigash" (and he
must understand how the name "VaYigash" includes within it all
the events mentioned in the portion, among them, the revelation of Yosef to his
brothers and the descent of Yaakov and his household to Egypt. Although these
events resulted from "VaYigash," Yehuda approaching Yosef, it
does not appear that the word "VaYigash" includes those
events. In addition, the sale of the Egyptians and their land to Pharaoh,
described at the conclusion of the Torah portion, does not appear to have any
connection to "VaYigash."
haftora always presents a theme from the Torah reading of that week. The haftora
chosen for Parshas VaYigash expresses the general significance of the name
"VaYigash." The haftora relates how in the Messianic
age, the kingdom of Yosef will be united with the kingdom of Yehuda. Our Sages
explain that both Yehuda and Yosef were kings who represented different
spiritual approaches. Their meeting symbolizes a unification of these different
approaches. The haftora relates that this will initiate the era when
"I will take Yisroel from among the nations...and make of them a single
nation… One king will reign over them."
represents the oneness of the Jewish people and the oneness that pervades the
world at large. It expresses "the great general principle of the Torah:
love your fellowman as yourself." VaYigash demonstrates how this
unity is expressed, not only as a spiritual concept, but on the level of deed.
davening, we state, "I hereby take upon myself the fulfillment of
the mitzva, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself.’" It is not
sufficient to meditate on this concept. Although saying the words could
interrupt a person’s concentration and preparation for prayer, the Alter
Rebbe, in his siddur, nevertheless requires the statement to be made.
this statement before davening is significant, indeed. To explain: From a
spiritual perspective, there is nothing revolutionary about the concept of the
oneness of the Jewish people, as the Jewish souls are "all fitting, with a
single Father. Therefore, all Yisroel are called brothers because of the source
of their souls in one G-d... It is [rather] the bodies which separate
them." When the soul descends into a physical body, however, factors arise
which can separate one Jew from another. This is particularly true in the time
of exile, when the Jews are "scattered and dispersed among the
nations." Even in the midst of such separation, from a spiritual
perspective, the Jews are one and share a single desire — to fulfill
G-d’s will. The mitzva of ahavas Yisroel is intended to
establish and express this unity within the world at large. Therefore, it is
important to make a verbal statement of this unity. "The movement of one’s
lips is considered as deed." This deed leads to other deeds of oneness,
e.g., the distribution of tzedaka by the other limbs of the body.
represents Jewish unity expressed in the physical world. When Jews unite with ahavas
Yisroel, their unity has the potential to bring about even greater blessings
than those brought down by the angel Michoel.
concept applies to the purpose of our service in the world. The entire world is
pervaded by Divine oneness. Our task is to recognize and express that oneness.
Every particular creation that experiences this unity in our "world of
separation" reveals its ultimate purpose, the revelation of and expression
of G-d’s glory.
on the above, we can understand the connection of VaYigash to the other
events mentioned in the Torah portion. The entire portion revolves around the
concept of unity, the beginning focusing on the unity of the Jewish people, and
the conclusion, on the expression of unity in the world at large.
meeting between Yehuda and Yosef resulted in a connection between Yosef and his
brothers after so many years of separation. This has been the source of the
oneness of the Jewish people throughout the centuries, which will reach its
fullest expression in the Messianic era. The union between Yehuda and Yosef also
represents and brings about unity throughout the world. To quote the Zohar, it
brings about "the drawing close of one world to another world to establish
oneness between them, uniting the upper world with the lower world."
among the Jewish people (for whose sake the world was created), establishes
unity in the world. Thus, first the haftora says, "I will make you
into a single nation," and then, "And the nations will know that I am
the L-rd...and the L-rd will be King over the entire earth; on that day, the
L-rd shall be one and His name, one."
VaYigash describes the settlement of Yaakov and his descendants in the land of
Egypt, morally, the lowest place on the earth. The Torah describes Egypt as
"the nakedness of the land" and the Egyptians as "the most
depraved of the nations." Their spiritual level was so low that Pharaoh,
their king, considered himself a god, saying, "The river is mine for I have
and his sons settled in Egypt to elevate the land and to reveal G-d’s oneness
there, as stated before, the ultimate revelation of G-d’s oneness comes in the
place of division. The potential for this service of refinement comes from
VaYigash, the unity established between Yehuda and Yosef.
of significance is Yaakov’s "sending Yehuda before him to show the
way," interpreted by our Sages to mean that he sent him to establish a yeshiva,
which in turn opened the gateways to the transformation of Egypt into a place of
activities led to VaYechi (and Yaakov lived," interpreted by our
Sages to mean that the best years of Yaakov Avinu’s life were spent in Egypt.
He and his sons dedicated themselves to Torah study there, thus, transforming
the darkness of Egypt into light.
The all-inclusive nature of this unity is also accentuated by the conclusion of
the Torah portion, which describes Yosef’s acquisition of the Egyptians and
their land for Pharaoh. A superficial reading of this portion, however, may lead
to an opposite conclusion. But, in truth, this narrative also reflects the
expression of the oneness of G-d.
narrative mentions how Yosef did not buy the lands of the pagan priests. On the
surface, it would seem that their idol worship gave them a certain degree of
power, which even Yosef had to reckon with. It would, therefore, seem to
represent the very opposite of the oneness of G-d. Nevertheless, the service of VaYigash,
particularly the contribution of Yehuda, is able to reveal G-d’s oneness even
on this plane.
represents the service of hodaa, the acknowledgement of G-d with bittul
(self-nullification) and mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice). Yehuda
nullified himself to Yosef, thus he approached Yosef. Yosef was, — and in the
present age, is — the mashpia (source of influence) and Yehuda, the mekabel
(recipient). The bittul of Yehuda is what leads to his unity with
represents "those who serve G-d with their bodies," while Yosef
represents "those who serve G-d with their souls." To establish unity
between them, Yehuda had to express bittul to Yosef.
bittul increased Yosef’s power and gave him the potential to reveal
G-d’s oneness completely, breaking the power of the Egyptian idolaters. Yosef
alone did not have the power to break through and express G-d’s oneness on
this level; only when he joined with Yehuda was this possible.
interpret these concepts in the realm of our individual service: On the level of
Yosef, the level of Torah study, the possibility exists for such a lack of bittul
that a person feels self-important. The approach of Yehuda, the level of deed,
on the contrary, involves pushing oneself against one’s nature with bittul and
self-sacrifice. The person does not feel his individual identity at all. He is
totally absorbed in carrying out the deed he was commanded to perform.
Yehuda introduces the potential for Yosef to experience this complete level of bittul
as well, to study Torah lishma (for G-d’s sake) with
self-sacrifice. This perspective sees no external goals for Torah study, not
even the attainment of a portion in the World to Come. Rather, one studies out
of love, "because one’s soul is bound up in the love of G-d and is
totally obsessed with it."
point is implied in Yaakov’s sending Yehuda to establish a house of study.
Although study is the realm of Yosef, in order for Torah study to transform
Egypt into a place of Torah, to break the barriers of Egyptian paganism, the
influence of Yehuda is necessary. His bittul provides the power to reveal
in the Messianic age, Yehuda will be on a higher plane than Yosef, as the haftora
states, "And my servant Dovid [from the tribe of Yehuda] will be the nasi
over them forever." The bittul of Yehuda emanates from the essence
of the soul. Hence, when the ultimate unity between Yehuda and Yosef will be
established, Yehuda will be on the highest level. This, in turn, will facilitate
the revelation of G-d’s oneness in a complete manner. "The deeds of the
patriarchs are a sign to their descendants." The unity caused by Yaakov’s
settling in Egypt generated the potential for his descendants, the Jewish people
of subsequent generations, to express G-d’s oneness within the boundaries and
limitations of the world, even in the time of exile. This has been the ultimate
goal of the service of the Jewish people throughout the centuries.
the first step in ending the exile is spreading unity among the Jewish people.
This point is emphasized in the Haftora, which, as mentioned above,
relates how the establishment of unity among the Jewish people will lead to the
end of the exile and ultimately, to the spreading of the knowledge of G-d
throughout the world.
this context, we can understand the progression in the weekly Torah portions. VaYigash,
the complete expression of unity despite the exile, leads to VaYechi, a
Jew’s full expression of life in the last moments of exile, true life that
permeates every aspect of one’s being. This process leads to eternal life, as
our Sages state, "Our Patriarch, Yaakov, did not die." Eternal life
will be realized in the Messianic redemption, associated with the book of Shmos,
the book which relates the story of the redemption of the Jews.
concepts reflect eternal spiritual truths that are particularly relevant in the
present generation, when "all the appointed times for Moshiach’s coming
have passed." According to all the signs mentioned by our Sages, the
Messianic Redemption should have come already. The Rebbe Rayatz declared that
all that is necessary is to "polish the buttons and stand prepared to greet
Moshiach." Since that declaration was made many years ago, we can conclude
that this service has been completed already and in the very near future,
Moshiach will come.
at this time, there must be a greater stress on the establishment of unity among
the Jewish people and the spreading of unity in the world by encouraging the
observance of the seven universal laws given to Noach and his descendants.
emphasis on the above comes this year, the fortieth year after the Rebbe Rayatz’s
passing, when G-d grants us, "a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that
hear," enabling us to "attain the wisdom of one’s teacher" in
all matters associated with the Rebbe Rayatz.
VaYigash, Yehuda’s approach towards Yosef, took place in the fortieth
year of Yosef’s life. This emphasizes the importance of spreading unity —
among the Jews and in the world at large — in the present era. We must
dedicate ourselves to directing our thought, speech, and action to Jewish unity.
On a simple level, when Jews gather together (e.g., as Yehuda approached Yosef),
their meeting must generate benefit for another Jew (as the above meeting
benefited Binyomin). The effects of this activity will not be self-contained,
but will ultimately bring about good for the entire people (as that meeting
benefited all the brothers).
are frequently categorized into two groupings: Yisachar, students of Torah, and
Z’vulun, businessmen who are involved in the performance of good deeds. The
divisions between these categories must be nullified. Students of Torah must
occupy themselves with deeds of kindness, as our Sages declared, "Whoever
says, ‘All I have is Torah,’ does not even have Torah." They must
increase in tzedaka, giving freely and generously. And the businessmen
must steal time from their occupation to study Torah.
the previous generations, each person was predominantly occupied with a
particular emphasis in his service. These categories, however, never represented
a totally rigid division. In the present age, to complete the final preparations
for the Redemption, any distinctions have to be further nullified. Businessmen
have to establish many times for Torah study until their efforts parallel those
of Torah scholars. Similarly, Torah scholars must give to charity over and above
their limits, as do businessmen.
unity brought about through these efforts will have an effect in the world at
large and hasten the establishment of Jewish unity in all places. Then, we will
proceed, "with our sons and daughters," the entire Jewish people
together, as we leave the exile in the ultimate and complete Redemption.