Parashat Vayigash

December 14, 2018

In Parashat Vayigash, after Yosef reveals his identity to his brothers, he instructs them to return to Canaan and bring Yaakov, his father, to Egypt.  Since Yosef had risen to the esteemed position of viceroy in Egypt, he was in a position to support Yaakov and his entire family during the remainder of the famine years. 
Before the brothers leave, Yosef instructs his brothers to not divert their attention away from the path of where they are going:

 

וַיְשַׁלַּח אֶת-אֶחָיו, וַיֵּלֵכוּ; וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, אַל-תִּרְגְּזוּ בַּדָּרֶךְ.

 

This phrase "al tirg'zu baDerekh" is a difficult phrase with many different interpretations. 

Rashi raises two Midrashic interpretations:  
He begins with the Gemara in Makekhet Taanit (10b), explaining that Yosef is cautioning the brothers not to engage in complex halakhic discussions or debate during their travel.  In this way, they would not get side tracked and lose their way.
The second opinion in the Gemara explains that Yosef gave his brothers advice:  Travel patiently and make sure to stop over for rest before nightfall.

Yet, along with Chazal's perspectives, Rashi decides to offer his own explanation.  Rashi suggests that this statement should be placed within the context of what just occurred moments earlier.  Yosef's brothers just found out about their brother being alive.  The same brother who they sold twenty two years earlier into slavery. Perhaps, Yosef wanted to warn his brothers to make sure not to speak about the event of the sale of Yosef.  He was concerned that the brothers, feeling humiliation and regret after now speaking face to face with Yosef - the very same brother they planned to rid themselves of, would now start re-hashing that very event.  As the brothers make their way back to Chevron, these feelings of guilt and shame may cause the beginnings of pointing fingers who is to blame in addition to deep regret. Focusing on that episode may cause further strife or self belittling.  Yosef's advice is:  Don't speak about this matter at all.  Yosef urges the brothers to let the past rest.  The Teshuva they demonstrated will stand and they should not harbor resentment  towards one another or continue to bear the guilt of their wrongdoings.
 
This, of course, is easier said than done.  Perhaps this is one reason why Yosef is considered a Tzadik by Chazal.  A tzaddik is truly able to move forward and allow those who have wronged him to do teshuva and start a new.  Understandably, it is not always possible to forgive.  Yet, when a person engages in teshuva and the parties make room for forgiveness, like we ask Hashem when we engage in Teshuva - is the slate really clean?  It is one thing to bring oneself to forgive.  But, it is another to put those words into action. This articulation that Yosef would like his brothers to recognize that they have truly been forgiven will serve Yosef well for the future nation of Am Yisrael. Moreover, individually, it will enable Yosef to restore what he was missing in his life - his connection to his family: His Brothers.  This time, the relationship will be stronger.  This is not only a reinstatement of a family, but, through Yosef's forgiveness and request for the brothers to forgive themselves, we witness an actual birth of a family unit.  One that will be able to graduate to the next stage of forming the nation - the Am, which will become Am Yisrael.

This pasuk perhaps teaches us a simple lesson in the area of interpersonal relations: To allow oneself to be able to let go of hurtful events of the past.  More often than not, friends, siblings, spouses, and parents-children who have fought in the past and have since rehabilitated their relationship are best advised to find a way to move forward and set their sights on the future, rather than dwelling on the painful experiences of the past.
 
When there is rupture in our interpersonal relationships, may we merit to have the strength to restore Shalom Bayit within our homes,  find harmony and reconciliation among our friends and peace between each other within our community and create the space to move forward after there is repair.

Shabbat Shalom.

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