Sunday, December 1, 2013
VAYIGASH – INSIGHTS INTO RASHI: YOSEF’S REUNION WITH BINYAMIN
Bereishis, 45:14: “Then he fell upon his brother Binyamin’s neck and wept; and Binyamin wept upon his neck.” Rashi, 45:14: sv. Then he fell upon his brother Binyamin’s neck and wept: Over the two Temples that were destined to be in the portion of Binyamin, and whose end was to be destroyed. Upon the momentous reunion of Yosef with his brother Binyamin, Yosef sees through ruach hakodesh that in the future, the two Temples which will be located in Binyamin’s portion will be destroyed, and this brings him to tears. The obvious question is why Yosef received this vision at this point in particular? In order to answer this question it is necessary to delve more deeply into the saga of mechiras Yosef. It seems clear that there is an underlying connection between the whole episode and the future tragedies that would befall the Jewish people with regards to the destruction of the Temples. The Megaleh Amukos provides the first key to discerning this connection. He writes that all the exiles were caused by the sale of Yosef. In particular, it seems that the sinas chinam (baseless hatred) that was generated in this tragic story was the cause of all the future hatred that caused such damage to the Jewish people throughout history. It seems that Yosef understood the long-term significance of the damage caused by his sale, and this can help us understand his actions when the brothers came to Mitzrayim. The commentaries are very bothered as to why Yosef acted so harshly towards the brothers, thereby causing intense pain to the brothers and to his father, Yaakov Avinu. The Kli Yakar explains in great detail that everything Yosef did to them before revealing himself was carefully planned to bring them to recognize the gravity of their sin in selling him and to rectify it. He did this by inflicting on them, measure for measure, the suffering that they caused him twenty two years earlier. For example, he threw them into a prison to correspond to the fact that they threw him into a pit; and he kept Shimon as prisoner in Mitzrayim because he was the main instigator of the plot to harm him; most significantly he placed them in a situation as similar as possible to the one they were in so many years earlier; where the other son of Rachel stood to be lost – would they now rectify their earlier hatred of Yosef by willing to give up everything to save Binyamin? Indeed it is apparent from the Torah’s account that his goal was being fulfilled as we see that they increasingly recognized that the tribulations they were undergoing now were teaching them of the severity of their sin in selling Yosef, until the point where Yehuda showed how dedicated they were to saving Binyamin. Yet it is clear that he did not succeed in completing his goal of bringing them to complete teshuva; after Yehuda’s passionate plea for mercy, the Torah tells us that Yosef could no longer continue his pretense. The clear implication is that ideally he planned to continue even further. The reason for this is that he realized that he had not yet fully rectified the hatred and distrust sowed so many years earlier. And the ramifications of this failure were enormous – it meant as we said in the beginning, that the remaining remnants of hatred would emerge to plague the descendants of the Shevatim in future generation. We can now approach why Yosef cried at this point in particular about the destruction of the Temples. The second Temple is easier to understand. As is well known, the cause of its destruction was sinas chinam (baseless hatred); accordingly Yosef cried at this moment for its destruction because he now recognized that his failure to continue the rectification process, indirectly facilitated the sinas chinam that resulted in the Second Temple’s destruction. The connection between the first Temple and mechiras Yosef is a little more complicated. The basic explanation is that there was one particular event that began the sequence of events that culminated in the Temple’s destruction; this was the split of the two Kingdoms. This created a situation where the Northern Kingdom quickly deteriorated into idol worship which in the long-term filtered into the Southern Kingdom, culminating in the Temple’s destruction. The person who caused this split to take place in such a destructive way was Yeravam Ben Navat, a descendant of Yosef. This split was essentially an extension of the momentous clash in this week’s Parsha between Yehuda and Yosef. Had that clash been fully resolved then the future split could never have taken place with the disastrous ramifications that ended with the first Temple’s destruction. This was why Yosef was crying at this momentous occasion about events that would take place hundreds of years later. We have developed a deeper understanding of the long-term ramifications of mechiras Yosef – by learning from what transpired we can strive to continue the rectification process that Yosef nearly completed.