This week’s Torah reading relates that after Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, “he fell on the neck of his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin fell on his neck.” Why were they both crying? Rashi, a classic commentator who usually focuses on the simple meaning of the text, states that in this instance, their tears are to be understood as future-oriented. The term “neck” is an allegory referring to G‑d’s Sanctuary or Temple. Joseph was crying about the destruction of the Temple which would be built in the tribal heritage of Benjamin, and Benjamin was crying for the destruction of the Sanctuary at Shiloh which would be erected in Joseph’s tribal heritage.

Why are the Sanctuary and the Temple identified with the neck? Because just as the neck connects the higher and more refined potentials that are lodged in our minds with the basic physical functions performed by the other portions of our bodies, so too, the Temple and the Sanctuary bonded the spirituality and G‑dliness that transcends our material realm with the day-to-day realities of our existence. The destruction of the Temple — the source for that bond — is certainly a reason to weep.

But why were Joseph and Benjamin weeping about the destruction to take place in the other’s territory? What about the destruction to take place in their own territory? Why didn’t they cry about that?

Because crying doesn’t change anything. It soothes a person’s feelings and releases his tension somewhat, but nothing more. It does not change the situation. Therefore, when it comes to one’s own problems, crying is not the answer. One must do something.

When it comes to another person, one can point out the need for change and one can offer advice and assistance. But since ultimately, it is in the hands of the other person, often there is nothing more to do than cry.

When, by contrast, one’s own future is at stake, crying may very well be a form of escapism, an avoidance of the issue at hand. What is necessary is deed and action, not merely catharsis. We must build anew, tapping the essential positive potentials that each one of us possess and bringing them to the surface.

Looking to the Horizon

Joseph’s tears when uniting with his brothers are forerunners of the tears the entire Jewish people will shed when reestablishing their bond with G‑d at the time of the ultimate redemption. As the prophet states: “I will bring them from the land of the North and gather them from the ends of the earth.... With weeping they will come.”

Why will they be crying? Because the revelations of G‑dliness will surpass their capacities. Our Sages relate that when Rabbi Akiva would study the Torah’s mystic secrets, tears would flow from his eyes. The appreciation of G‑dliness he would realize exceeded even his understanding and could only find expression through his tears. Similarly, in that future era, “Your Master will no longer conceal Himself and your eyes will see your Master.” Every member of our people will have a personal experience of G‑dliness that will surpass any of his previous conceptions.

At present, we look at the world through mundane eyes. We accept the natural order and the events of the world as determining factors in our lives. True, we may also know that G‑d exists, but we are aware of Him as something new and learned, not as something obvious and self-evident.

In the era of Mashiach, this will change. G‑dliness will be openly apparent; but it is not only that — we will see G‑dliness. We will understand that He is the true reality and that all existence is merely an external garment through which He manifests His different potentials.

This is not merely a dream of the future. The teachings of Chassidic thought enable us to appreciate a foretaste of this awareness in the present time. Although we cannot see G‑dliness with our eyes, we can develop an understanding that inspires love and fear of Him.