Vayigash – How To Keep Your Children On The Derech

Vayigash – How To Keep Your Children On The Derech

Wednesday, December 28th, '11

Chazal say that when Yosef sent his brothers back to Yaakov with the news that reports of his death were highly exaggerated, he sent along עגלות as proof that he is really Yosef, for the last topic that Yaakov and Yosef learned together before Yosef’s disappearance was עגלה ערופה, something that only the real Yosef  would know.

The question is, of all the possible ways to confirm Yosef’s identity, why did he do it this way? Surely there were many things between Yaakov and his beloved son that nobody else knew of. Why specifically did Yosef choose this way to prove to his father that he was alive?

The Ater of Kelm ask a question about the disclaimer that the Sanhedrin makes in the Parsha of Eglah Arufah.  They say:

יָדֵינוּ לֹא שָׁפְכוּ אֶת הַדָּם הַזֶּה וְעֵינֵינוּ לֹא רָאו

Says Rashi: יָדֵינוּ לֹא שָׁפְכוּ אֶת הַדָּם הַזֶּה  - Why does the Sanhedrin need to say that they did not shed the blood of the murdered man? Why would anyone think the elders of the Sanhedrin would do such a thing? The answer is that ידינו לא שפכו does not mean that they did not literally commit murder. Rather, it means that they did not neglect to protect the person by escorting him 4 Amos outside  the city.

The Alter of Kelm asks: What kind of protection does it afford to walk someone 4 Amos outside the city? If we find a corpse let’s say 50 miles outside of the nearest city – what good would it have done had we escorted him for 4 cubits?

His answer is, that the protection afforded by the escort of the Sanhedrin is not that they are there with him in the wilderness. It is something else entirely.

A person is accosted between cities by bandits. He has the ability to run away from them, or even to fight them off. But someone who the Elders of the Sanhedrin care so little about that they did not bother to give him an escort out of town, such a person sees that the Elders think so little of him, he gets the message that he is worthless. He thinks to himself, “Why should I bother saving myself from the murderers if the Sanhedrin think I am no even worth giving an escort?” Someone who sees himself devalued by those he respects ends up devaluing himself. He cannto muster the will or the strength ti fight of the bandits who want to kill him.

But someone who receives a royal escort from the Sanhedrin on his way out of town is filled with pride. Such a person easily finds the will and the strength to fight off the robbers and to survive.

That is what the Sanhedrin mean by ידינו לא שפכו את הדם הזה – we did not neglect to escort him. We did not destroy his will to live; we did not destroy the energy he needs to survive in the wilderness.

Now back to Yosef. Chazal tell us that Yaakov Avinu was worried, when he heard Yosef was living all those years in Egypt, lest the be influenced by the unholy environment of Egypt. He was happy that his son was alive physically, but what about his Neshama? As Chazal say: גדול המחטיאו יותר מן ההרגו.

That is why Yosef sent his father those עגלות. He knew that Yaakov was worried about his Neshama, and so he sent him this implicit message:

“Yaakov Avinu – I know you are concerned whether I remained loyal to the Torah despite my years of living in Egypt. But you need not worry. Remember the last Sugya we learned before I left? Eglah Arufah? And remember the vort from the Alter of Kelm that you taught me?  He says that if the Sanhedrin HaGadol show they value someone, that will give him strength to fight off murderous assailants in the wilderness. Well, Yaakov Avinu, in that case, you have nothing to worry about. For all my life you showed me how much you value me. I was your favorite son. You loved me more than any of my brothers. you gave me the כתנת פסים. For my brothers maybe that was not good, but for me, it was. You, the great Yaakov Avinu, who had מטתו שלמה cared about me specifically so much, and valued me so much — that you gave me all the strength I need to fight and survive. Whatever amount of strength of character is needed to remain Yosef HaTzadik all these years in Mitzrayim — you gave me. By showing that you valued me so much.

“So don’t worry Yaakov Avinu. I am alive and well, living in Egypt. Not only physically, but spiritually as well.”

 

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