January 6-7, 2017 – 9 Tevet 5777
Annual (Genesis 44:18-47:27): Etz Hayim p. 274-289; Hertz p. 169-177
Triennial (Genesis 44:18-45:27): Etz Hayim p. 274-279; Hertz p. 169-172
Haftarah (Ezekiel 37:15-28): Etz Hayim p. 290-292; Hertz p. 178-179
The End of Genesis?
Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty and Coordinator, Torah Sparks
Parshat Vayiggash is the next-to-last parashah in Bereishit, but it could indeed be the last. The drama of Joseph and his brothers is resolved, and the parashah concludes (47:27):
Vayeshev Yisrael b’eretz mitsrayim – And Israel settled down in Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired holdings there and were fruitful and increased greatly.
Sound familiar? Fast forward to Exodus 1:7:
And the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
The Torah’s story could have continued from end of Vayiggash straight into Exodus 1:8, And there arose a new king over Egypt…without a stitch or a hitch.
In Vayiggash, through a series of revelations, movements and dramatic meetings, all the threads come together. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and then meets his father, both very dramatic moments. He introduces his father and brothers to Pharaoh and the family is settled in Goshen with the encouragement and assistance of Pharaoh. They prospered there, as the closing verse indicates, almost as if it’s “happily ever after.” Not quite.
Perhaps the most moving moment of closure in Vayiggash is the meeting of Joseph and his father, Jacob. Immediately upon revealing his true identity to his brothers Joseph had asked “Is my father still alive,” a question burning inside him for two decades. Yet, surprisingly, he does not head straight off to see Jacob in Eretz Yisrael; he waits until Jacob comes to Egypt with the family. This cannot be for political reasons – Pharaoh himself invites Jacob and the family to come live in Egypt. It might be post-trauma stress; Joseph had been through several very harrowing experiences in those two decades. Or perhaps it reflects the fact that Jacob himself, when he had returned to Eretz Yisrael after twenty years with Lavan in Haran, had delayed quite a while before going to visit his aging father, Itzhak. Mida keneged mida, measure for measure? Perhaps. But when Josef is ready to go, he does so with vigor, (46:29) And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went to meet Israel his father in Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. One day, five verbs, twenty-two years of separation overcome in one intensive verse.
Vayiggash is a grand finale to Sefer Bereishit, it brings us to where we need to be for Sefer Shmot. But that final verse, And Israel settled down in Egypt…has other echoes as well, ironic and foreboding. “Israel” is another name for Yakov, and we are reminded of 37:1, Vayeshev Yakov b’eretz m’gurei aviv, eretz C’nan, “And Jacob settled down in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Caanan,” which Rashi had explained: “Jacob yearned to live in tranquility (bikesh le’shev b’shalva), but the terrible incident of Joseph came upon him.” Ironically Joseph now finds peace and quiet, for the last seventeen years of his life, in Egypt. Little could he know what a terrible future awaits his descendents there. Sefer Bereishit ends, either at the end of chapter 47 or the end of chapter 50, with Bnei Israel “living happily ever after.” On the deck of the Titanic.
A Vort for Parashat Vayiggash
Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
At Pharoah’s prompting Joseph sends his brothers, well-provided, to bring Jacob down to Egypt, including “metuv mitsrayim – with Egypt’s finest goods” (Gen 45:23). Rashi brings the Talmudic statement (Megilla 16b) that “Egypt’s finest” was “old wine, which old people find pleasing.” R’ Alexander Zusia Friedman (Poland, 1897 – 1943, killed by the Nazis), citing Pirkei Avot (4:27) – “there are new flasks with old wine,” said that Joseph was signaling to Jacob not to worry. Despite his new exterior as the governor of Egypt, with all the attending pomp and ceremony, the “wine” inside was that which Jacob had taught him in his youth, and that his elderly father need not worry that Egypt had spoiled Joseph’s Jewish identity and commitment.
Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
This Parasha opens with a great monologue by Judah. Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, the family goes to Egypt, and Joseph helps the Egyptians survive the famine in a manner that is very beneficial to Pharaoh.
1) We ended last week’s Parasha as the “Egyptian Lord” (Joseph) offered to send everyone home except for Benjamin who supposedly stole the goblet. Now Judah steps up and confronts this Egyptian to try to save Benjamin. Why is Judah, out of all the brothers, taking on this role (44:32-34)?
2) Judah takes several approaches in his speech. He tries to enlist the “Egyptian’s” pity (44:20), but he also re-tells the events that led to this moment, including some conversations that we did not have the details about until now (44:23-31). What do you think that he hopes to achieve with that?
3) Joseph, after revealing his true identity to his shocked brothers, tells them to come to Egypt because there are 5 more years of famine to come. But who actually gives the orders to bring the brothers and the father (Yaakov, Jacob) to Egypt (45:16-21)? Keeping that in mind, what do you think about Pharaoh’s behavior in Exodus 1:8-14? (Pharaoh is the royal title of the kings of Egypt. They are “the state.”)
4) As the entire household of Yaakov happily heads to the Golden Medina of Egypt, Yaakov receives a prophecy at night in Be’er Sheva. God tells him not to fear. What might Yaakov fear at this point that Joseph has been found and all their subsistence issues are solved? (46:1-4, but also go back to 15:12-16.)
5) After a 22 year break, during which Yaakov thought that Joseph was dead; Yaakov and Joseph finally meet again (46:29-30). What would you expect them to say to each other? Are there things that one of them would rather NOT talk about? What is the only thing that the Torah tells us about what was said?