Torah Weekly

For the week ending 3 January 2009 / 7 Tevet 5769

Parshat Vayigash

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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With the discovery of the goblet in Binyamin's sack, the brothers are confused. Yehuda alone steps forward and eloquently but firmly petitions Yosef for Binyamin's release, offering himself instead. As a result of this act of total selflessness, Yosef finally has irrefutable proof that his brothers are different people from the ones who cast him into the pit, and so he now reveals to them that he is none other than their brother. The brothers shrink from him in shame, but Yosef consoles them, telling them that everything has been part of G-d’s plan. He sends them back to their father Yaakov with a message to come and reside in the land of Goshen. At first, Yaakov cannot accept the news, but when he recognizes hidden signs in the message which positively identify the sender as his son Yosef, his spirit is revived. Yaakov together with all his family and possessions sets out for Goshen. G-d communicates with Yaakov in a vision at night. He tells him not to fear going down to Egypt and its negative spiritual consequences, because it is there that G-d will establish the Children of Israel as a great nation even though they will be dwelling in a land steeped in immorality and corruption. The Torah lists Yaakov's offspring and hints to the birth of Yocheved, who will be the mother of Moshe Rabbeinu. Seventy souls in total descend into Egypt, where Yosef is reunited with his father after 22 years of separation. He embraces his father and weeps, overflowing with joy. Yosef secures the settlement of his family in Goshen. Yosef takes his father Yaakov and five of the least threatening of his brothers to be presented to Pharaoh, and Yaakov blesses Pharaoh. Yosef instructs that, in return for grain, all the people of Egypt must give everything to Pharaoh, including themselves as his slaves. Yosef then redistributes the population, except for the Egyptian priests who are directly supported by a stipend from Pharaoh. The Children of Israel become settled, and their numbers multiply greatly.


Go Back To Palestine!

“And there I will provide for you…” (48:11)

My mother grew up in the East End of London. She remembers to this day the sight of Sir Oswald Mosley surrounded by his “Black Shirts” standing on the back of a lorry in the middle of Mansford Street, Bethnel Green E2, with searchlights playing on his face, screaming “Jews! Go back to Palestine!”

It’s ironic that the anti-Semitic flavor-of-the-month would like us to go anywhere but Palestine. Our “cousins”, the children of Ismail (Yishmael), suggest repeatedly the Mediterranean Sea as our final destination. And those self-same European Jew-haters whose forbears wanted us to “go back to Palestine” are heartily in favor of that suggestion.

A cursory glance at European history shows that the Jews were far from the first migratory nation to settle there. In fact, a remarkable stream of complex migration peopled almost the whole of Europe with strangers long before the tribes of Jacob began their great Diaspora. So, in truth, the Jews could reply to the cry for a Judenrein Europe, “Did the cradle of your ancestors stand here?”

The concept that the Book of Bereshet is a matrix for the entire story of the Jewish People is fundamental to an understanding both of the Torah and history. “The actions of the fathers are ‘sign’ to the children.” The roots of all that later happens to the tribes of Yisrael is planted in the first of the Books of the Torah.

Thus, millennia before the Jews arrived in Europe, Yosef had already implemented a vast redistribution of the Egyptian people, so that no Egyptian could accuse the Jews, "You have no business to be here, you were not born in these parts."

No Egyptian or European after him could rightfully claim, "Go back to Palestine!" — for they were no less sojourners than were we.

And when we return, it is not as exiles, and not to Palestine – but to the Land of Israel, our rightful heritage, and as free men and women.

  • Source: Based on Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch

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