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The whip is usually an instrument of punishment, but it can also be a gift. Teachers of old used the whip to administer corporeal punishment. However, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, once wrote about a teacher that was beloved by his students. This teacher never used the …

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Home » Vayigash

Vayigash: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on December 9, 2007 – 2:34 amNo Comment | 1,753 views

 Sunday: Judah’s Sudden Reversal

When Joseph’s silver goblet was discovered in Benjamin’s sack Judah suggested that the entire family be enslaved to Joseph as a form of collective punishment. Later, when Joseph insisted that only Benjamin be enslaved and the others go free, Judah was enraged. Why was Judah enraged by a punishment he had earlier suggested not only for Benjamin, but for the entire family?

Judah was familiar with his grandfather’s prophetic vision and was thus aware that the family would eventually relocate to Egypt and suffer in bondage. When Benjamin was framed, Judah supposed that the time for the Jewish exile had arrived. He therefore offered his entire family up for bondage. When Joseph insisted that Benjamin remain behind while the others return to Israel Judah realized that the era of Jewish bondage was not yet meant to begin. He therefore insisted that the entire family, including Benjamin, be set free. Tiferes Yonasan

Monday: Is My Father Still Alive?

Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers and immediately asked them if his father was still alive. This is a curious question when you consider that during the course of interrogation, the brothers offered a full report about their father’s whereabouts and activities.

Joseph was not asking if his father was physically alive. That was abundantly clear from his brothers’ previous reports. Joseph was asking if his father was spiritually alive. Was his spirit crushed by grief? Had mourning his son frayed his spirit? Is the father I once knew and loved still alive? Tiferes Yonasan

Tuesday: Unity for Peace

Just before Joseph sent his brothers home to collect their father and bring him to Egypt he cautioned them, “Don’t quarrel on the way.” The literal meaning of Joseph’s enjoinder was that they should not engage in recrimination over whose idea it was to sell Joseph, but there is a far deeper meaning that echoes across the generations.

Each brother followed a unique path in the service of G-d. Each was convinced that his path was superior and they often debated the merits of their respective paths. So long as they lived in Israel under the tutelage of Isaac and Jacob, they could afford to debate their differences. Once they moved to Egypt they could no longer afford such luxury. They would have to learn to respect the multiple paths for only unity can serve as a bulwark against the influence of Egyptian culture.

Joseph, familiar with the struggle of a Jew in the Diaspora, offered sound advice. You may each entertain your own approach, but “don’t quarrel about your ways.” Come to recognize that all paths rooted in Torah eventually lead to G-d. Divrei Yisroel

Wednesday: Descent and Ascent

Jacob was petrified of descending to Egypt. Jacob, an exalted spirit, had no business in Egypt, an immoral and depraved land. Would his sojourn there affect his wholesome devotion and integrity? G-d replied, “I shall descend with you to Egypt and I shall raise you up, you shall also be raised.”

As Jews we should worry when moving to or working in an inappropriate environment, but when destiny leads us to a particular location we must follow our destiny despite our concerns. G-d assigned each of us a mission and sometimes our missions lead us to the most inappropriate places. Our goal is not to be influenced by our environment, but to leave our imprint on it.

If we remember that we are there to realize our divine destiny, G-d will indeed be with us. He will be with us as we descend and also when we ascend. Note that G-d promises a double ascent. He will raise us to the point from which we have descended and then “shall raise up again.” Kedushas Levi

Thursday: Names of Destiny

The names cited in the Torah, especially those of the tribe of Judah, the tribe from which King David hailed, reflect the destiny of our people. Judah had five sons, Er, Onan, Shela, Peretz and Zerach.

Er means awake. During the First Temple the divine presence was present and alert to the affairs of our people.

Onan is a halachic state of mourning. The divine presence was less manifest in the Second Temple than it was in the first. This was indicated by the absence of the Holy Ark in the sacred chamber, the Holy of Holies.

The two temples were followed by a long exile, but this too shall soon end as indicated by the next three names.

Shela, similar to Shiloh, is a name used by prophets to indicate the arrival of the Moshiach.

Peretz means to break out of or to breach defenses. In the Messianic Era the Jewish nation will break out of the chains that have confined them for millennia.

Finally, Zerach means sunrise. In the Messianic Era, the divine essence will radiate in full measure, bathing the world in the endless glow of infinite, spiritual light. Or Hachayim

Friday: Tears are for Others

Joseph cried on Benjamin’s shoulders for the two temples that would be destroyed in Benjamin’s portion of Israel and Benjamin cried on Joseph’s shoulders for the tabernacle that would be destroyed in Joseph’s portion. Why did each lament the other’s misfortune, but not his own?

When beset by suffering, we are advised by the Talmud to review our behavior and repent. When misfortune befalls others, there is not much we can do to help. We can cry with them, pray for them and even encourage them, but we can not repent for them. When misfortune befalls us we can and should repent. There is no time for sorrow; we must immediately turn our attnetion toward repentance and correct the problem.

This was also true for Joseph and Benjamin. For each other they cried. For themselves they had no time for tears. They were too busy with repentamce. Likutei Sichos

Shabbat: Transforming the Negative

“And Israel settled in the land of Goshen (Egypt), they acquired it, were fruitful and greatly multiplied.” A morally upstanding person in an immoral environment is certainly affected. Thoughts and emotions spawned by improper sights and sounds constantly flood the mind.

With utter and unflappable determination we might ban the onslaught from our minds and hearts. Alternatively, we might welcome the onslaught and transform it. For example, when our hearts our drawn toward temptation, we might utilize this attraction by redirecting it to G-d. With the heart already in attraction mode it is an opportunity to direct one’s mind heavenward.

This was the way of the Israelites. They settled in Goshen, became residents of the land; a people that fit in and belonged, accustomed to the depraved manner of their neighbors. They then acquired it. When affected by the negative environment they took ownership of the thought or emotion and redirected it. Thus, they bore fruit and their deeds multiplied exceedingly. Kedushas Levi

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