Embrace by Marcel Ardivan on Unsplash

Vayigash | פרשת ויגש

Sefer Shemot | ספר שמות

Shemot 27:20-30:10  [Hebcal] [על-התורה] שמות כז כ-ל י

Haftarah: Yechezkel 43:10-27 (all) | Unless it is Shabbat Zachor

[על-התורה] הפטרה:  יחזקאל מג י-כז (ע”פ כל המנהגים) | אלא אם כן זו שבת זכור


Table of Contents


Parashat Vayigash picks up right where we left off last time, just after Yosef has “revealed” his stolen silver goblet in Binyamin’s bag⁠—which Yosef himself planted there. This obligates Binyamin to remain as Yosef’s slave, per the ruse. Before long, however, Yosef is overcome and reveals his identity to his brothers. He is eventually reconciled with Yehuda especially and with his aged father. The entire family is settled in the land of Goshen, a choice region of Egypt, where they weather the famine with bread to sustain them as Yosef continues his masterful stewardship of Egypt’s wealth.

Yehuda’s Speech to Yosef

[Bereshit 44:18]

Yehuda approaches Yosef and again entreats him to relent and take Yehuda as a slave in place of Binyamin. Yehuda recounts in detail the whole affair: how Yosef questioned the brothers about their family and how their aged father insisted that the youngest not go. In the course of the retelling, Yehuda says, evoking deep emotion:

יֹּאמֶר עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי אֵלֵינוּ אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם כִּי שְׁנַיִם יָלְדָה לִּי אִשְׁתִּי: וַיֵּצֵא הָאֶחָד מֵאִתִּי וָאֹמַר אַךְ טָרֹף טֹרָף וְלֹא רְאִיתִיו עַד הֵנָּה: וּלְקַחְתֶּם גַּם אֶת זֶה מֵעִם פָּנַי וְקָרָהוּ אָסוֹן וְהוֹרַדְתֶּם אֶת שֵׂיבָתִי בְּרָעָה שְׁאֹלָה:

“Your servant my father said to us, ‘As you know, my wife bore me two sons. But one is gone from me, and I said: Alas, he was torn by a beast! And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me, too, and he meets with disaster, you will send my white head down to Sheol in sorrow.’

Bereshit 44:27-29

Yehuda continues, explaining his predicament: if he returns without Binyamin, his father will die of grief; but he has pledged himself to return Binyamin safely, incurring serious guilt upon himself. Once again he begs of Yosef to take him as a slave in place of Binyamin.

Yosef Reveals Himself

[Bereshit 45:1]

At this point in Yehuda’s speech, Yosef “could no longer control himself before all his attendants” (וְלֹא יָכֹל יוֹסֵף לְהִתְאַפֵּק לְכֹל הַנִּצָּבִים) and commands his retinue to leave. However, “His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace” (וַיִּתֵּן אֶת קֹלוֹ בִּבְכִי וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ מִצְרַיִם וַיִּשְׁמַע בֵּית פַּרְעֹה). Alone with his brothers, Yosef reveals his identity to them. He immediately asks about his father’s welfare. But the brothers are taken aback, and Yosef has to repeat himself. He reassures them:

“Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you. It is now two years that there has been famine in the land, and there are still five years to come in which there shall be no yield from tilling. God has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. So, it was not you who sent me here, but God—who has made me a ‘father’ to Pharaoh,1 lord of all his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.”

Bereshit 45:5-8

Since, as Yosef says, there are five more years of famine to come, he tells his brothers to return to Canaan and inform Yaakov that he is to come to the region of Egypt called Goshen2 to be near Yosef and have food during the coming years of scarcity.

Having said this, Yosef embraces first Binyamin and then his other brothers, weeping. Only after this are the brothers able to relate to Yosef as their lost brother.

Paraoh’s Gifts

[Bereshit 45:16]

Paraoh is pleased with the news of Yosef’s brothers returning to Egypt. Paraoh instructs Yosef:

 אֱמֹר אֶל אַחֶיךָ זֹאת עֲשׂוּ טַעֲנוּ אֶת בְּעִירְכֶם וּלְכוּ בֹאוּ אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן: וּקְחוּ אֶת אֲבִיכֶם וְאֶת בָּתֵּיכֶם וּבֹאוּ אֵלָי וְאֶתְּנָה לָכֶם אֶת טוּב אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וְאִכְלוּ אֶת חֵלֶב הָאָרֶץ: וְאַתָּה צֻוֵּיתָה זֹאת עֲשׂוּ קְחוּ לָכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם עֲגָלוֹת לְטַפְּכֶם וְלִנְשֵׁיכֶם וּנְשָׂאתֶם אֶת אֲבִיכֶם וּבָאתֶם: וְעֵינְכֶם אַל תָּחֹס עַל כְּלֵיכֶם כִּי טוּב כָּל אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם :לָכֶם הוּא

“Say to your brothers, ‘Do as follows: load up your beasts and go at once to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you shall live off the fat of the land.’ And you are bidden [to add], ‘Do as follows: take from the land of Egypt wagons for your children and your wives, and bring your father here. And never mind your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt shall be yours.’”

Bereshit 45:17-20

Paraoh sends the brothers off to Canaan with ample supplies, but gives conspicuously more to Binyamin: three hundred pieces of silver and five pairs of clothes. For Yaakov, Paraoh sends ten donkeys loaded with the best of Egypt’s wares and ten more loaded with food. Yosef adds, to his brothers, that they should be careful not to quarrel on the journey.

The Brothers Return to Canaan to Inform Yaakov

[Bereshit 45:25]

The brothers arrive in Canaan and proceed to tell Yaakov that Yosef is alive and well. Yaakov is incredulous. They start to tell Yaakov the entire story, but he insists: “Enough! …My son Yosef is still alive! I must go and see him before I die” (רַב עוֹד יוֹסֵף בְּנִי חָי אֵלְכָה וְאֶרְאֶנּוּ בְּטֶרֶם אָמוּת).

Yaakov Goes to Yosef

[Bereshit 46:1]

The aged Yaakov sets out for Egypt. At Beer Sheva, “where he offered sacrifices to the G-d of his father Yitzchak” (וַיִּזְבַּח זְבָחִים לֵאלֹקי אָבִיו יִצְחָק), Hashem appears to him at night in a vision. Hashem calls out to him by name, twice, and Yaakov responds, hineni (הִנֵּנִי): “Here I am.” As we’ve seen throughout Sefer Bereshit, hineni denotes a total acceptance of whatever is to come, the embrace of the individual of his or her intended purpose. Hashem tells Yaakov:

אָנֹכִי הָאֵל אֱלֹהֵי אָבִיךָ אַל תִּירָא מֵרְדָה מִצְרַיְמָה כִּי לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל אֲשִׂימְךָ שָׁם: אָנֹכִי :אֵרֵד עִמְּךָ מִצְרַיְמָה וְאָנֹכִי אַעַלְךָ גַם עָלֹה וְיוֹסֵף יָשִׁית יָדוֹ עַל עֵינֶיךָ

“I am G-d, the G-d of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

Bereshit 46:3-4

With this assurance, Yaakov sets out from Beer Sheva towards Egypt. Yaakov’s children seat him with all his grandchildren, wives, and possessions on the wagons that Paraoh had sent and they make the journey along with their livestock.

Bnei Yisrael in Egypt

[Bereshit 46:8]

The Torah emphasizes that Yaakov “brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons, his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring” (בָּנָיו וּבְנֵי בָנָיו אִתּוֹ בְּנֹתָיו וּבְנוֹת בָּנָיו וְכָל זַרְעוֹ הֵבִיא אִתּוֹ מִצְרָיְמָה). They are then enumerated:

  1. Reuven (רְאוּבֵן), the firstborn, with his sons: Chanoch (Enoch – חֲנוֹךְ), Palu (פַּלּוּא), Chetzron (חֶצְרוֹן), and Carmi (כַּרְמִי).
  2. Simeon (שִׁמְעוֹן) with his sons: Yemuel (יְמוּאֵל), Yamin (יָמִין), Ohad (אֹהַד), Yachin (וְיָכִין), Tzochar (צֹחַר), and Shaul (Saul – וְשָׁאוּל), the last specified as being the the son of a Canaanite woman.
  3. Levi (לֵוִי) and his sons: Gershon (גֵּרְשׁוֹן), Kehat (קְהָת), and Merari (מְרָרִי). (They’ll be especially important later.)
  4. Yehuda (יְהוּדָה) and sons, whom we’ve encountered before in the story of Tamar in Parashat Vayeshev: Er (עֵר), Onan (אוֹנָן), Shelah (שֵׁלָה), Peretz (פֶרֶץ), and Zerach (זֶרַח)—”but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan; and Perez’s sons were Chetzron (חֶצְרוֹן) and Chamul (חָמוּל).”
  5. Issachar (יִשָׂשכָר) and his sons: Tola (תּוֹלָע), Puvah (פֻוָּה), Yov (יוֹב), and Shimron (שִׁמְרוֹן).
  6. Zevulun (זְבוּלֻן) and his sons: Sered (סֶרֶד), Elon (אֵלוֹן), and Yachle’el (וְיַחְלְאֵל). “Those were the sons whom Leah bore to Yaakov in Paddan-Aram, in addition to his daughter Dinah. Persons in all, male and female: 33.”
  7. Gad (גָד) and his sons: Tzifion (צִפְיוֹן), Chaggi (חַגִּי), Shuni (שׁוּנִי), Etzbon (אֶצְבֹּן), Eri (עֵרִי), Arodi (אֲרוֹדִי), and Areli (אַרְאֵלִי).
  8. Asher (אָשֵׁר) and his sons: Imna (יִמְנָה), Ishva (יִשְׁוָה), Ishvi (יִשְׁוִי), and Bria (בְרִיעָה), and their sister Serach (שֶׂרַח). Beriah’s sons: Chever (חֶבֶר) and Malchiel (מַלְכִּיאֵל). “These were the descendants of Zilpah, whom Lavan had given to his daughter Leah. These she bore to Jacob—16 persons.”
  9. “The sons of Yaakov’s wife Rachel were Yosef and Binyamin.” Yosef‘s two sons, born in Egypt to Osnat the priest’s daughter, were Manashe (מְנַשֶּׁה) and Efraim (אֶפְרָיִם).
  10. Binyamin’s sons: Bela (בֶּלַע), Becher (בֶכֶר), Ashbel (אַשְׁבֵּל), Gera (גֵּרָא), Naaman (נַעֲמָן), Echi (אֵחִי), Rosh (רֹאשׁ), Muppim (מֻפִּים), Huppim (חֻפִּים), and Ard (אָרְדְּ). “These were the descendants of Rachel who were born to Jacob—14 persons in all.”
  11. Dan (דָן) and his son, Chushim (חֻשִׁים).
  12. Naftali (נַפְתָּלִי) and his sons: Yachtze’el (יַחְצְאֵל), Guni (גוּנִי), Yetzer (יֵצֶר), and Shillem (שִׁלֵּם). “These were the descendants of Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel. These she bore to Jacob—7 persons in all.”

“All the persons belonging to Yaakov who came to Egypt—his own issue, aside from the wives of Yaakov’s sons—all these persons numbered 66. And Yosef’s sons who were born to him in Egypt were two in number. Thus the total of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt was seventy persons.”

Yosef Greets his Aged Father

[Bereshit 46:28]

Yehuda, having gone ahead to lead the way to Goshen, arrives to Yosef’s first. Yosef goes out to greet his father: “He presented himself to him and, embracing him around the neck, he wept on his neck a good while” (וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוָּארָיו וַיֵּבְךְּ עַל צַוָּארָיו עוֹד). Yisrael, the other name by which Yaakov is known, declares that he can now die, having seen his beloved lost son alive.

Greeting Paraoh

[Bereshit 46:31]

Yosef then goes to inform Paraoh of the arrival. However, he first explains to his family that “all shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians” (כִּי תוֹעֲבַת מִצְרַיִם כָּל רֹעֵה צֹאן); therefore, they should say that their occupation is shepherding, so that Paraoh will have them settle in Goshen and not Egypt proper.

Yosef explicitly introduces them as such, then presents five of his brothers, who confirm that this is indeed their occupation. Paraoh says that they may settle anywhere, especially in Goshen, “the choicest part” (מֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ) with its amenities for shepherding; he also says that he would welcome their skills for his own flocks.

Next, Yosef presents his father to Paraoh. When Paraoh asks Yaakov his age, Yaakov replies, “The years of my sojourn are one hundred and thirty. Few and hard have been the years of my life, nor do they come up to the life spans of my fathers during their sojourns” (מֵי שְׁנֵי מְגוּרַי שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה מְעַט וְרָעִים הָיוּ יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיַּי וְלֹא הִשִּׂיגוּ אֶת יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי אֲבֹתַי בִּימֵי מְגוּרֵיהֶם). They take their leave of Paraoh.

Settling in Egypt and Another Famine

[Bereshit 47:11]

Paraoh grants the family a landholding (אֲחֻזָּה) in Goshen (the region, it turns out, is also called Rameses – אֶרֶץ רַעְמְסֵס). Yosef is able to sustain his entire family with bread during the famine, which ravages Egypt and Canaan. However, Yosef, ever the careful steward of Paraoh’s affairs, manages over the course of a year to take in monies in exchange for bread from the entire region, with which he enriches Paraoh.

The next year, having exhausted the capital on hand, the people demand to be given bread. Yosef suggests that they sell their livestock in exchange for it. They respond by turning over to him horses, sheep, cattle, and donkeys.

Yosef Acquires Egyptian Lands for Paraoh

[Bereshit 47:18]

The year after that, having liquidated all their assets, the people again demand to be given bread, lest they starve. This time, Yosef suggests that they sell him their landholdings in exchange for bread. In this way he acquires all the farmland in Egypt for Paraoh and causes great population shifts. The priests of Egypt, however, are an exception, since their land had been allotted to them by Paraoh himself.

Yosef’s next move is to give the people seed with which to sow Paraoh’s lewly-acquired lands; in exchange, they will return to Paraoh’s granaries one-fifth of the yield. The other four-fifths are theirs to keep for the sustenance. Grateful, the people declare their servitude to Paraoh. This agreement is enshrined as the enduring law of the land.

In closing, we are told: “Thus Israel settled in the country of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired holdings in it, and were fertile and increased greatly” (וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ וַיִּפְרוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד).

Haftarah Summary – ואתה בן אדם

[Yechezkel 37:15-28]

The prophet Yechezkel is commanded to perform a series of (generally unappealing and seemingly absurd) symbolic acts that foreshadow the coming destruction of the first Beit ha-Mikdash. He is commanded to undertake such a symbolic action only once after the destruction. This haftarah tells the story of that one act, which serves to foreshadow the future reconciliation of the destroyed kingdoms of Yehuda and Yisrael. The connection to our parsha is this reconciliation between Yehuda and Yosef; the Kingdom of Yisrael is associated with Yosef, since its first king, Yerovam, was from the tribe of Efraim.

Hashem tells Yechezkel: “And you, O mortal, take a stick and write on it, “Of Judah and the Israelites associated with him”; and take another stick and write on it, “Of Joseph—the stick of Ephraim—and all the House of Israel associated with him.” (וְאַתָּה בֶן־אָדָם קַח־לְךָ עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתֹב עָלָיו לִיהוּדָה וְלִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲבֵרָו וּלְקַח עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתוֹב עָלָיו לְיוֹסֵף עֵץ אֶפְרַיִם וְכׇל־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲבֵרָו׃). He is then to bring the sticks together, symbolizing the messianic age when the two kingdoms of Israel will be united.


Image: Marcel Ardivan on Unsplash

Notes

  1. Rashi says this means a trusted advisor; Ibn Ezra says that the word av expresses Yosef’s position as a teacher of Paraoh.
  2. The Goshen mentioned in Yehoshua 10:41 and Yehoshua 15:51 is apparently a different place from the Egyptian Goshen.

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