1. The Torah portion of Vayigash begins with the episode of Yehudah approaching Yosef: “Yehudah walked up to Yosef and said...” (Bereishis 44:18). He had been sent by Yaakov to do just that. In the section of Vayigash which we learn today we learn about another mission that Yaakov gave to Yehudah: “[Yaakov] sent Yehudah ahead of him to make preparations in Goshen” (ibid. 46:28).

In this verse we will also discern the connection of this portion with the holiday of Chanukah. The Shaloh explains that the three portions of Vayeishev, Mikeitz and Vayigash all deal with the story of Yosef because they are connected to Chanukah. At the same time, in the word “Goshnah” (G’Sh’N’H’) we have the four letters that are written on the sides of the dreidel (N’un G’immel, H’ey, Sh’in). The custom of the dreidel existed also in the homes of the previous Rebbeim and certainly has many esoteric interpretations.

How does today’s study section fit in with the sequence of the entire portion of Vayigash? In the earlier sections we learned the true intention of the descent to Egypt: “Now it is not you who sent me here, but G‑d,” with the goal that by going “down” to Egypt they would eventually rise to a higher level, as explained further in Scripture:

Do not be afraid to go to Egypt, for it is there that I will make you into a great nation. (Ibid. 46:3)

Now, in today’s section we find, “[Yaakov] sent Yehudah ahead of him to make preparations in Goshen.” Rashi explains that the Torah is referring to “a house of study from which teaching might go forth” (Rashi, loc. cit.). When they would have houses of Torah study in Egypt, where the Jewish people would be able to devote themselves to Torah, then the ultimate purpose of the G‑dly mission of going to Egypt would be achieved.

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2. At the close of today’s section we read of Yaakov’s encounter with Pharaoh and the blessing he bestowed upon him: “...with that, Yaakov blessed Pharaoh and left his presence” (ibid. 47:10). Rashi explains:

He gave him the salutation of peace as it is usual for all who take their leave of princes — they salute them and depart. A Midrash however understands this more literally and asks, what was the blessing with which he blessed him? “That the waters of the Nile might rise at his approach.” Because Egypt is not irrigated by rain water, but the waters of the Nile rise and irrigate it. And from the time when Yaakov blessed him and henceforth, whenever Pharaoh came to the Nile it rose at his coming, overflowed its banks and watered the land. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

With the acquisition of all this power, Pharaoh came to the realization that he needed Yaakov’s benedictions and that the ability to provide grainfeed for Egypt — and the rest of the world — would depend on Yaakov’s blessing. With this understanding between them Yaakov left Pharaoh and went out to settle in Egypt as Scripture informs us:

Yosef found a place for his father and brothers to live...in the best area, as Pharaoh had ordered. (Ibid. 47:11)

Now even Pharaoh was assisting Yaakov and his family to fulfill their mandate in Egypt to create a dwelling place for G‑dliness even in the lowly and G‑dless land of Egypt.

All of this provides us with a profound lesson for people in their Divine service.

Egypt symbolizes all of the diasporas of the Jewish people, including even the spiritual exile of the G‑dly soul in the human body, in the mundane and corporeal world. What is the goal of this commission into the galus? to reach a higher state. To attain this goal there must be a prerequisite — Yehudah must be sent ahead to Yosef! Yehudah, represents the concept of praise for G‑d and humility, which every Jew has in his inner self. The basis of a Jew’s Divine service is the proclamation made in the morning, “I offer thanks to you.... (Modeh Ani).”

Sent ahead, refers to the emergence from the limiting and restricting natural habits.

To Yosef, symbolizes the approach and preparation for prayer; the prostration and humility of standing in prayer.

To make preparations, to establish houses of Torah study which would teach and give direction in practical Halachah and daily action.

Chassidus also explains that Yosef and Yehudah represent the duality of study and deed — tzedakah and prayer, and the association with Pharaoh that helps the Jew fulfill his mission on earth. This includes the blessing of a good and rich land when we observe Torah and mitzvos.

These themes may be connected to the subject of making Chabad Houses — places for Torah, prayer and good deeds. The house of Torah is alluded to by the term “to make preparations,” which Rashi said means “schools for Torah.” Prayer is symbolized by Yehudah’s approach to Yosef, and tzedakah and acts of lovingkindness are the logical results of fervent prayer — as well as the sum total of the food produced by the rising Nile.

Every Jewish home should become a mini-sanctuary and radiate the light of Torah, prayer and charity to the whole world — and make a dwelling place for the Shechinah.

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3. Now a question.

Can it be that on the sixth day of this week we garner a new directive to establish Chabad Houses? This subject has been duly discussed before!

So simple a question demands a fundamental response.

Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people) takes place every day — that is why we recite a blessing “...Who gives the Torah” — present tense! For this reason whenever one studies Torah he must visualize that at that very moment he actually receives the Torah from the Holy One, Blessed be He, and he must experience the same awe and trembling (see Berachos 22a).

Despite this continual transmission of Torah there is one day in the year when we make a “big deal” of Matan Torah — at the Season of the Giving of our Torah, and it is concerning the day of Shavuos that our sages have taught:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to the Jewish people, “My children, read this chapter (the Ten Commandments) every year (on the day of Shavuos) and I will consider it as if you are standing before Me at Mount Sinai and accepting the Torah. (Pesikta d’R. Kahana, Shemos 19:1)

It is therefore the custom to bring even small children to the synagogues on Shavuos to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments, so as to relive the experience of Matan Torah, when our children were accepted as guarantors.

From this we see that although every day the Torah is given anew, nevertheless, on Shavuos there is something more. And on the day of Shavuos there will also be a difference between the time when we recite the blessing “Who gives the Torah” and the moment when the Ten Commandments are read.

In this same context we may perceive the ongoing momentum to establish Chabad Houses. On the one hand, it is a continual phenomenon, and at the same time when the sixth day of the week comes, and we look to Torah and see that Yehudah was sent ahead to establish houses of prayer and study, we realize that the moment has arrived when we must stir up a new storm and make a “big deal” of houses of Torah, prayer and good deeds.

We stand now a few days before the fast of the 10th of Teves. A fast day is called as a “day of grace before G‑d”; at the same time it carries a negative connotation, the fasting and penitential prayers. The true goal of this paradoxical character is to return to its original loftiness.

This idea is expressed in the Rambam when he speaks of the fast days:

All the fast days mentioned above are destined to be abolished in the time of the Mashiach, indeed they are destined to be turned into festive days, days of rejoicing and gladness in accordance with the verse (Zechariah 8:19) “therefore, love the truth and peace.” (Laws of Fast Days 5:19)

Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity will nullify the reasons for the exile (disunity and unfounded hatred) and then the redemption will come.

The 10th of Teves has been singled out to possess a more severe theme than the other minor fasts of the year. As the Avudraham explains, if the tenth of Teves were to occur on Shabbos it would not be postponed, but the fast would be imposed, just like Yom Kippur, because it says, “on this same day” (B’Etzem HaYom HaZeh, Yechezkel 24:2).

Judging by the negative force of this day we may understand its truly lofty nature, as compared to the other fast days. Therefore, every moment should be utilized till the Tenth of Teves, to increase our Divine service and good actions which will surely bring the realization of the Rambam’s assurances of redemption and the day will be converted to a day of gladsomeness and rejoicing.

So may it be, that our discussion will evolve into action that will increase in all these areas and then one good speech, thought or deed will tilt the scale and bring salvation to the world.

May the true and complete redemption come, and with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, with their gold and silver — material and spiritual — we will go back to our Holy Land, where G‑d watches from the beginning of the year to the end of the year; in an expanded way, to include the land of the ten nations. Then all the synagogues, study halls and Chabad Houses will be transported to Eretz Yisrael, and the clouds will have more enthusiasm carrying the new Chabad Houses.

And we will all go out to greet our righteous Mashiach, Amen, so may it be.