Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

Od Yoseif Chai

(Joseph is still alive!)

Part 5: Joseph reveals himself and is reconciled with his brothers

 

 

 

 

Commentary on Parashat Vayigash
TORAH: Genesis 44;18 — 47:27
HAFTORAH: Ezekiel 37:15-28
December 12, 2001 — 7 Tevet 5762

© 2005 Maggid ben Yoseif

Introduction:

This is the fifth of the six weeks of special commentary on the Torah portions that record the birth, mission and death of Joseph. This commentary is being written and disseminated to determine whether the Torah may allude to or reveal outright a plan to Return the non-Jewish Assimilated House of Joseph to be reunited with the Jewish House of Judah. In fact, we submit that such a plan is mystically hidden in the circumstances surrounding Joseph’s birth, life and interaction with his brothers, including the reconciliation with them indicated in this week’s portion.

Such a return and reunion would naturally involve the biblical inheritances of the House of Joseph (the historical/biblical borders of Ephraim and Manasseh) together with the biblical territory of Benjamin, who became part of the House of Joseph in last week’s portion. Since these same territories define the
Shomron or Samaria, sought by the Palestinians to comprise the northern 2/3rds of their proposed state, Hashem may have plans for this region other than a Palestinian state.

In this week’s portion, we especially note the phrase explaining why Joseph was preserved in his personal exile for the sake of his brothers,
l’hachayot lachem lifleytah gedolah (to sustain you for a momentous deliverance). A deliverance in this day by providing an alternative to a Palestinian state and another lawless Lebanon on Israel’s borders would certainly qualify as “momentous.”

Since last week’s haftorah was Chanukah I, but we wanted to emphasize the fate of Benjamin being divided in half with haftorah
Mikeitz, this week we are examining the profound truths of haftorah Chanukah I and haftorah Vayigash as they relate to the Return of the House of Joseph.
 


Maggid ben Yosef
 

Portion of the Kohen:  Genesis 41:18-30
Vayigash (“and he — Judah — approached”) explains how two brothers who historically did not get along, reach a place of unity. In fact, Tanchuma Vayigash refers to this unity with the phrase which ends the Shmonei Esrei prayer, “He who makes peace in His heights make peace upon us and upon all Israel.” Just who comprises us and the rest of Israel is indicated at the beginning of the Shmonei Esrei with the Tzur Yisrael (petition to Hashem as the “rock” of Israel to arise to the aid of both Judah and Israel. The reference is clearly to the Northern and Southern kingdoms coming together again as a condition of the geulah (redemption).

Mystically, the reference in verse 30 that Jacob’s soul is bound up with Benjamin’s explains why the Southern Kingdom to whom most of the tribe of Benjamin eventually gravitated, survives its exile. As Judah explained “we cannot
laredet (“go down” or a word traditionally associated with exile or leaving Eretz Yisrael) without him (Benjamin). If the youth (Benjamin) is missing, he (Jacob) will die. The identity of Jacob’s soul with Benjamin, therefore makes it necessary for Benjamin to become the connection between Judah and Joseph today.

Portion of the Levite:  Genesis 44:31 — 45:7
The obligation that Judah has re: the welfare of Benjamin (which translates to the soul of Jacob) is clarified to Joseph as being an eternal obligation. What will become evident as the Torah portion proceeds is that Benjamin is the link between Jacob and Joseph. Mystically, Joseph knew this and mystically, so do his descendants today. The assimilation of Benjamin within Judah is a major unifying factor in the Return movement and at the same time has preserved Judah for this reunion.

In 45:1, we see that the moment of the revelation of the identity of Joseph to his brothers is a private thing between them. Joseph has all bystanders removed. Yet he cries out in a loud voice, “
ani Yoseif ha'od avi chai!  (I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?), which all of Egypt heard. Similarly there is a revelation taking place privately between the sons of Joseph and Judah today. What is today faint whispers in the ear will one day be shouted from the mountains and will be anything other than silent in the ear of the world.

As we alluded to in the introduction, Joseph explains his personal exile as a means Hashem had chosen to sustain all of Israel for a momentous deliverance — a
pleitah. A future pleitah is alluded to in the prophet Obadiah (see Part 2). As we explained in commenting on haftorah Vayishlach, the pleitah there alluded to, is a function of the House of Joseph on Mount Tzion which would vanquish the House of Esau at the time Jacob would reclaim his possessions.

Third Portion:  Genesis 45:8 — 45:18
Joseph makes a curious and seemingly superfluous comment alluding to Benjamin. “Behold! Your eyes see — as do the eyes of my brother Benjamin — that it is my mouth that is speaking to you.” But when we remember how Benjamin’s and Jacob’s souls are one, this begins to take on a new meaning. We can see that the later covenant between King David (from Judah) and Yonatan (heir to the throne of Saul from Benjamin), that this covenant sealed and commemorated each month on the occasion of the renewal of the moon, is a reminder to
Judah that the soul of Jacob obligates Judah to remember the House of Joseph. It was David’s friendship and allegiance to Yonatan which endeared him to the House of Joseph. Joseph may also be alluding to the lack his father, Jacob, has suffered since the time of Joseph’s disappearance which resulted in the inability of Jacob to experience the Sh’chinah for those 22 years. Similarly, not since the time of the exile of the Northern Kingdom, has the Sh’chinah rested on a United Israel and Judah.

Fourth Portion:  Genesis 45:19 — 45:27
If we recall that when Jacob sent Joseph to look after the welfare of his brothers, and send back word, we can understand why Joseph sent 10 wagons with his brothers along with 10 he-donkeys and 10 she-donkeys. Only when Jacob sees these wagons (the
agulot) is he convinced that Joseph still lives. The Midrash relates that this was a mystical message Joseph sent to his father alluding to the last thing Jacob had taught Joseph, about the importance of escorting a guest and the similarity of the word agulot (wagons) and the eglah (calf that had to be beheaded if a man was found slain between two cities). The wagons for Joseph’s father and brothers also were his reply to Jacob’s charge that he see to the welfare of his brothers.

Fifth Portion:  Genesis 45:28 — 46:27
In listing the 70 descendants of Jacob who went down into Egypt, we note in verse 27 that the singular noun,
nephesh (one soul), is used to describe the entire family and includes the two sons of Joseph born in Egypt.  Is there a lack in the soul of Judah and the soul of Joseph until both are reunited?

Sixth Portion:  Genesis 46:28 — 47:10
Of all the occupations the family of Jacob could have chosen, the most offensive to Egypt would be that of shepherds, which means they would grow to be detested by Egypt. This would result in them remaining apart physically from the families of Egypt, which may have been Hashem’s design with creating their first of many ghettos. The vegetarian Egyptians revered their animals as gods. Many modern cultures place more value on the lives of animals than human beings.

Seventh Portion:  Genesis 47:11 — 47:27
The last verse of this portion relates that the children of Israel have now settled in the land of Egypt in the region of Goshen. How? They acquired property in Egypt and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” The Midrash again relates that the land of Egypt grasped the children of Jacob, implying that their possessions in Egypt possessed them and prevented them from leaving Egypt. Possessions, especially possession of lands and homes can have the same effect in our culture today, which may explain why many Joes today are a more transient people choosing to rent or lease rather than buy and living more frugal lives anticipating doors suddenly opening to make this return. Living in
galut (exile),  many also are aware of their responsibility as Hashem's Light to the Nations to Remedy the Bread of Shame associated with His gifts to all of Israel.

Haftorah Vayigash:  Ezekiel 37:15-28
Popularly known as the haftorah of the two sticks of Ezekiel coming together, there is probably no more pointed reference to the return and reunion of Joseph and Judah than this portion. Although it begins with verse 15, verse 11 gives us the context by which to identity these two with the analogy of dry bones that gather sinew and flesh and come to life. Those bones are identified in verse 11 as the whole House of Israel. In this same chapter, Ezekiel makes a distinction between the House of Judah and the House of Israel. This means the whole House of Israel refers either exclusively to the Northern Kingdom or at least to an aggregate population comprising the Northern Kingdom along with the Southern … in other words a reunion.  As the chapter makes clear, the reunion occurs "on the mountains of Israel."  Aside from the small Mt. Carmel range near Haifa, all of Israel's mountains fall in Judea-Samaria.  This means this region may never be part of a Palestinian state.

Since verse 12 begins with the transition "Therefore" and verse 16, the transition "Moreover," it is evident that Ezekiel 36:15 continues the same theme of restoration and reunion of the Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom comprised primarily of the House of Joseph.

The two sticks or tablets if you will, are identified in the one hand of Ezekiel as the “stick of Judah and
b’nei Yisrael, his chaverah (companions of like mind) and in the other hand, “Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and the Beit Yisrael, his chaverah.” The reference to Beit Yisrael, (House of Israel) because Ezekiel uses it earlier and later in this chapter to describe the Northern Kingdom, would be the Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom.

The stick of Ephraim must change location to be gathered to the stick of Judah in verse 19. Verse 21 spells out where this Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom is located — from among the nations to which they went and promises a return to their own soil — their biblical possessions in Eretz Yisrael, which in the case of the House of Joseph, is the region of the Shomron. Verse 22 says they will become one nation upon the mountains of Israel. Most of the mountainous terrain in Israel today is in Judea-Samaria, the unannexed territories sought by the Palestinians for their state. This verse means a Palestinian state in Judea-Samaria would circument this reunion and therefore should not be allowed.  Verse 22 further describes this return to one king and a very clear reference to the healing of the rift between the two kingdoms so that “they shall no longer be two nations, no longer divided into two kingdoms again.”

Verse 23 also seems to allude more to the Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom. Their
pesha (rebellious sins) are atoned for. The judgment of “Lo-Ami” (Not My People), which Hashem first spoke through the prophet, Hosea, declaring that He would not be their God and they would not be His people) also finds remedy. Since only Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) or the intervention of a tzadik (see Isaiah 53) may deal with the category of sin known as pesha, this Assimilation is obviously a people who have returned to Torah.

Their
t'shuvah (repentance) also evident from verse 24 where they clearly “go in My ordinances (the mishpatim of Torah) and observe My chukot (decrees) including the yishmeru or safeguarding of them, which is another way of saying they observe some form of Halachah (the interpretation of Torah Law). Verse 25 is specific to the unannexed territories as well since Jacob dwelt from Sh’chem (modern Nablus) and the border between Ephraim and Manasseh to Hebron in Judah. This people who return from the Assimilation will similarly inhabit these regions., “they, their children and their children’s children forever.”

The covenant of peace alluded to in verse 26, is associated either with Joseph directly (because he was initially construed by his brothers to be an obstacle to
Shalom Ha-Bayis or peace in the household) or between Judah and Joseph. Again in verse 27, Hashem reiterates that “I shall be for a God unto them, and they shall be unto Me for a people,” the same words which in the negative earlier judged not the Southern Kingdom but only the Northern Kingdom. (See Hosea 1:7).

NOTE: Last week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, was read with Haftorah Chanukah 1 instead of Haftorah Mikeitz. Below is our exposition of the Haftorah Chanukah 1 as it relates to the theme of the Return of the House of Joseph:

Haftorah Shabbat Chanukah I:  Zechariah 2:14 — 4:7
The “daughter” of Zion in verse 14 who should “sing and be glad,” is mystically Joseph, since the gematria of
Tzion and the gematria of Yoseif are both 156. The nations (goyim) who attach themselves to Hashem on that day and become a people unto Hashem do so by the intervention of a tzaddik, represented by the tzadey. A tzadey placed in front of the Hebrew word for Greece (Yavan) converts it into Tzion.

Judah is clearly favored by Hashem as Judah is given his portion in the Holy Land by right of being taken as a heritage. Since the name Yehosua is traditionally associated with the Ephraimite who led the children of Israel in driving out the Cananite inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael, (and this is a vision), we also have an initial indication of a mystical portent related to Ephraim.

Satan is described as the accuser standing before Hashem. Mystically, such accusations from the guardian prince aligned with
Sama’el, the guardian of Esau, are possible only when Israel is not observing the Torah and its safeguards (some form of Halachah). This is alluded to in verse 6, where Yehoshua is warned to walk in Hashem’s ways and safeguard His charge. Only then would Yehoshua also be permitted among the “standing ones.”

Hashem instructs his messengers to remove the soiled garments and place on Yehoshua “
machalazot,” usually translated fresh garments. This is a most interesting term which is formed from the same word as chalutzim (pioneers in modern Hebrew). But the word also shares a common root with the verb describing the loosening of the shoe by which one relinquishes his right to yibum (levirate marriage). The shoe earlier loosened is now the remedy for this symbolic Yehoshua's spiritual malaise.

The Yehoshua to which the vision refers also appears to be a very unusual man with a very unusual following. He and those who yoshvim (sit) before him (making him some kind of rosh yeshiva -- head of a yeshiva) are all mofet hemah (translated "miracle workers or men wondered at"). Certainly there appears to be some kind of mystical quality to them which causes many to take note.

Their instruction comes veiled in a mystical reference to a stone with seven eyes or facets. Since the stone is mystical it is open to mystical interpretation. One of the most intriguing interpretations I have come across about this comes from Rabbi Avraham Raich, rabbi emeritus at the United Hebrew Congregation in Pueblo, Co.  He identifies the stone as Judah (the Jewish people) and six tribes that have assimilated into this stone or perhaps the House of Joseph joining with the tribes assimilated into Judah. This is indicated by the allusion following to the vine (the House of Judah in the prophetic imagery) and the fig tree (the House of Israel in prophetic imagery) and each man inviting his fellow beneath both or the restoration of the two kingdoms. Similarly the allusion to the two olive trees standing beside the right and left of the Temple menorah. Yet another symbol of unity and brought about not by power or might but by the
Ruah ha-kodesh. This could mean that the coming together again of Judah and Joseph (both containing part of Benjamin), will occur in the same way that Jacob’s spirit was linked to Joseph —through Benjamin. Jacob’s revival also came at the news that his son, Joseph, was still alive.

When Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah coincide, which almost occurred this past Shabbat, this haftorah concludes with the first and last verses of Shabbat Erev Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat Rosh Chodesh calling to mind the covenant sealed between King David and Yonatan, which would apply forever between the House of Judah and the House of Joseph.

Shabbat Shalom & Hashem's love & blessings,
Maggid ben Yosef

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