1. The names of the different Torah portions express the nature of each of these portions, including the entire portion within themselves.1 Thus, this week, the entire portion is characterized by the word Vayigash, “And he approached.”

Accordingly, we must understand how Vayigash includes within all the subsequent events mentioned in the portion, among them, the revelation of Yosef to his brothers and the descent of Yaakov and his household to Egypt. Although these events came as a result of Vayigash, Yehudah’s approaching Yosef, it does not appear that the word Vayigash includes those events. Surely, the events described at the conclusion of the Torah portion, the sale of the Egyptians and their land to Pharaoh does not appear to have any connection to Vayigash.

The general significance of Vayigash is expressed by the Haftorah — the recitation of which was instituted to capsulize the Torah reading. From this week’s Haftorah, it appears that the approach of Yehudah to Yosef is of all-encompassing significance. Our Sages explain that both Yehudah and Yosef were “kings” who represented different spiritual approaches. Their meeting thus, symbolizes a union and unification of these different approaches. Thus, the Haftorah relates how in the Messianic age, the kingdom of Yosef will be united with the kingdom of Yehudah. This will initiate the era when, “I will take Israel from among the nations... and make them a single nation... One king will reign over them.”

Thus, Vayigash represents the oneness of the Jewish people and the oneness that pervades the world at large. In this context, Vayigash expresses, “the great general principle of the Torah,” “Love your fellowman as yourself.” Vayigash demonstrates how this unity is expressed, not only as a spiritual concept, but through coming together and establishing oneness within this world, on the level of deed.

This concept can be explained within the context of the practice of, before prayer, making the statement, “I, hereby, take upon myself the fulfillment of the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself.”‘ It is not sufficient to meditate on this concept, the statement must be verbally expressed. Though making such a statement might disturb a person’s concentration and preparation for prayer, in his Siddur, the Alter Rebbe specifically requires that an actual statement be made.2

The making of the statement is significant for, from a spiritual point of view, there is nothing revolutionary about the concept of the oneness of the Jewish people. The Jewish souls are “all fitting, with a single Father. Therefore, all Israel are called brothers because of the source of their souls in the one G‑d... It is the bodies which separate them.”

When, however, the soul descends into a physical body, factors arise which can separate between one Jew and another. This is particularly true in the time of exile when, the Jews are “scattered and dispersed among the nations.” Even in the midst of such separation, from a spiritual perspective, the Jews are one and share a single desire, to fulfill G‑d’s will. The mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael is intended to establish and express this unity within the world at large.

Therefore, it is important to make a verbal statement of this unity. “The movement of one’s lips is considered as deed.” This deed leads to other deeds of oneness, e.g., the distribution of tzedakah, by the other limbs of the body.

Vayigash represents such an active statement of Jewish unity, to be expressed within the context of our physical world. When Jews gather together in such a manner, their unity has the potential of bringing about greater blessings than the angel, Michael.3

This concept applies in respect to our service in the world at large. In essence, the entire world is pervaded by Divine oneness. The task of our service is to express that oneness; for every particular creation to experience this unity within the context of our world of separation and thus, reveal their ultimate purpose, the expression of G‑d’s glory.

Based on the above, we can understand the connection of Vayigash to the other events mentioned in the Torah portion. The entire portion revolves around the concept of unity, the beginning focusing on the unity of the Jewish people, and the conclusion, on the expression of unity in the world at large.

The meeting between Yehudah and Yosef4 produced unity between Yosef and his brothers after they had been separated for so many years. This, in turn, has been the source for the oneness of the Jewish people throughout the centuries which will reach its fullest expression in the Messianic era.

In this context, we can understand the connection of Vayigash to the entire sequence of events described in the Torah portion. The union between Yehudah and Yosef represents and brings about unity throughout the world. To quote the Zohar, it brings about: “The drawing close of one world to another world to establish oneness between them, uniting the upper world with the lower world.”

When unity is established among the Jewish people (for whose sake the world was created), unity is established in the world. This concept is emphasized by the Haftorah5 which describes the unity to be established among the Jewish people, “I will make you into a single nation,” and then, the unity to be established in the world at large, “And the nations will know that I am the L‑rd... and the L‑rd will be King over the entire earth; on that day, the L‑rd shall be one and His name, one.”

Thus, parshas Vayigash describes the settlement of Yaakov and his descendants in the land of Egypt, morally, the lowest place on the earth. The Torah describes Egypt as, “the nakedness of the land,” and the Egyptians as “the most depraved of the nations.” Their spiritual level was so low that Pharaoh, their king, could consider himself a god, saying, “The river is mine for I have made it.”

Yaakov and his sons settled in Egypt to elevate the land and to reveal G‑d’s oneness there for the ultimate revelation of G‑d’s oneness comes in the place of division. The potential for this service of refinement comes from Vayigash — the unity established between Yehudah and Yosef.

[Also of significance is Yaakov’s “sending Yehudah before him to show the way,” interpreted by our Sages to mean that he sent him to establish a yeshivah. This opened the gateways to the transformation of Egypt into a place of Torah.]

These activities led to Vayechi — “And Yaakov lived” — interpreted by our Sages to mean that the best years of his life were spent in Egypt. He and his sons dedicated themselves to Torah study, thus, transforming the darkness of Egypt into light.

2. The all-inclusive nature of this unity is also accentuated by the conclusion of the Torah portion which describes Yosef’s acquisition of the Egyptians and their land for Pharaoh. A superficial perusal of that portion may lead to an opposite conclusion. As will be explained, however, this narrative also reflects the expression of the oneness of G‑d.

To explain: The narrative mentions how Yosef did not buy the lands of the pagan priests. On the surface, this reveals how their idol worship gave them a certain degree of power which even Yosef had to reckon with. This seemingly represents the very opposite of the oneness of G‑d, nevertheless, the service of Vayigash, and, in particular, the contribution of Yehudah is able to reveal G‑d’s oneness even on this plane.

Yehudah represents the service of hoda’ah, the acknowledgement of G‑d with bittul (“self-nullification”) and mesirus nefesh (“self-sacrifice”). Yehudah nullified himself to Yosef and, therefore, he approached him.6 Yosef was — and in the present age, is — the mashpia (“source of influence”) and Yehudah, the mekabel (“recipient”). It is the bittul of Yehudah which leads to the unity with Yosef.7

Yehudah represents, “those who serve G‑d with their bodies,” while Yosef represents, “those who serve G‑d with their souls.” To establish unity between them, Yehudah had to express bittul to Yosef.

This bittul increased Yosef’s power and gave him the potential to reveal G‑d’s oneness in a complete way, breaking the power of the Egyptian idolaters. Yosef, himself, did not have the power to break through and express G‑d’s oneness on this level. Only when he is joined with Yehudah is this possible.

To interpret these concepts in the realm of our individual service: On the level of Yosef,8 the level of study, the possibility exists for there to be a lack of bittul to the extent that a person feels self-importance.9 The approach of deed, however, involves pushing oneself against one’s nature with bittul and self-sacrifice. The person does not feel his individual identity at all. He is totally given over to carrying out the deed which he was commended to perform.

Thus, Yehudah introduces the potential for Yosef to experience this complete level of bittul as well, to study Torah L’shmah (“for G‑d’s sake”), with self sacrifice. This perspective sees no external goals for Torah study, not even the attainment of a portion in the world to come. Rather, one studies out of love, “because one’s soul is bound up in the love of G‑d and totally obsessed with it.”

This is implied in Yaakov’s sending Yehudah to establish a house of study. Though study is the realm of Yosef, in order for Torah study to transform Egypt into a place of Torah, to break the barriers of Egyptian paganism, the influence of Yehudah is necessary. His bittul provides the power to reveal G‑d’s oneness on this low plane.

Thus, in the Messianic age, Yehudah will be on a higher plane than Yosef as the Haftorah states, “And my servant Dovid (from the tribe of Yehudah) will be the Nasi over them forever.” The bittul of Yehudah emanates from the essence of the soul. Hence, when the ultimate unity between Yehudah and Yosef will be established, Yehudah will be on the highest level. This, in turn, will facilitate the revelation of G‑d’s oneness in a complete manner.

The revelation of this oneness is the ultimate goal of the service of the Jewish people throughout the centuries. “The deeds of the patriarchs are a sign to their descendants” and the unity brought about by Yaakov’s settling in Egypt generates the potential for his descendants, the Jews of subsequent generations, to express G‑d’s oneness within the boundaries and limitations of the world, even in the time of exile.

Thus, the first step in ending the exile is spreading unity among the Jewish people.10 This is emphasized in the Haftorah which, as mentioned above, relates how the establishment of unity among the Jewish people will lead to the end of the exile and ultimately, to the spreading of the knowledge of G‑d throughout the world.

In this context, we can understand the progression in the weekly Torah portions. Vayigash, the complete expression of unity despite the exile, leads to Vayechi, a Jew’s full expression of life in the last moments of exile, true life which permeates every aspect of the Jew’s being.11 This leads to eternal life as our Sages state, “Our Patriarch, Yaakov, did not die,” which will be realized in the Messianic redemption that is associated with the book of Shmos, the book which relates the story of the redemption of the Jews.

Though the above concepts reflect eternal spiritual truths, they are particularly relevant in the present generation when “all the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have passed,” and according to all the signs mentioned by our Sages, the Messianic redemption should have come already. The Previous Rebbe declared that all that is necessary is to polish the buttons and stand prepared to greet Mashiach. Since that declaration was made many years ago, we can conclude that this service has also been completed already and in the very near future, Mashiach will come.

Therefore, at this time, there must be a greater stress on the establishment of unity among the Jewish people and the spreading of the concept of unity in the world at large by encouraging the observance of the seven universal laws given to Noach and his descendants.

Additional emphasis on the above comes this year, the fortieth year after the Previous Rebbe’s passing when G‑d grants us, “a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear,” and thus, enables us to “attain the wisdom of one’s teacher” in all matters associated with the Previous Rebbe.

Significantly, Vayigash, Yehudah’s approach to Yosef, took place in the fortieth year of Yosef’s life. This further emphasizes the importance of spreading unity — among the Jews and in the world at large — in the present era. We must dedicate ourselves to directing our thought, speech, and action, to Jewish unity. On a simple level, when Jews gather together (e.g., as Yehudah approached Yosef), their meeting must generate benefit for another Jew (as the above meeting generated a benefit for Binyamin). The effects of this activity will not be self-contained, but will ultimately bring about good for the entire people (as that meeting benefited all the brothers).

In particular, we find that the Jews are frequently conceived of in two groupings, Yissachar, students of Torah, and Zevulun, businessmen who are involved in the performance of good deeds. The divisions between these categories must be nullified. The businessmen must steal time from their occupation to study Torah and the students of Torah must increase their gifts to tzedakah, giving freely and generously.

Even in the past, these categories never represented hard and fast divisions. Students of Torah must occupy themselves with deeds of kindness as our Sages declared, “Whoever says, ‘All I have is Torah,’ does not even have Torah.” Conversely, even businessmen are required to “fix times for Torah study.”

In the previous ages, however, each person had a particular thrust of service with which he was predominantly occupied. In the present age, to complete the final preparations for the redemption, even these distinctions have to be nullified. Businessmen have to establish many times for Torah study until their efforts parallel those of Torah scholars. Similarly, Torah scholars must give to charity over and above their limits as do businessmen.

The unity brought about through these efforts will have an effect in the world at large and hasten the establishment of Jewish unity in all places. Then, we will proceed, “with our sons and daughters,” the entire Jewish people joined together, as we leave the exile in the ultimate and complete redemption.