Introduction

The message was sent in a code that communicated multidimensional implications.

When Yosef wanted to assure his father that he was alive, he sent wagons, agalos, hinting at the passage of eglah arufah, the decapitated calf, the last subject Yaakov and Yosef had studied together.

The sichah to follow analyzes the lessons to be derived from the passage of eglah arufah and the effect Yosef’s message had on our ancestor, Yaakov. Yaakov understood the full depth of the communication Yosef had sent him and rejoiced. Yosef was not only informing Yaakov that he was alive; he was clarifying to him that he was still firmly adhering to his righteousness and Torah knowledge. He was spiritually alive. That was a source of joy for his father.

But there was a deeper message that Yaakov heard, and because of that, Yaakov marveled at his son. He realized that Yosef’s descent to Egypt would be the beginning of the entire Jewish people’s descent there. Because Yosef would serve as an exemplar and a source of influence, his Divine service possessed unique and novel dimensions that would empower Yaakov’s descendants to maintain their spiritual integrity even while in exile in Egypt. Beyond that, Yosef would impart to them the potential to rule over the influences of exile with absolute dominion and transform those influences into factors contributing to holiness.

A Sign of Life

On the verse,1 “He saw the wagons Yosef sent… and the spirit of Yaakov came alive,” the Midrash2 – quoted by Rashi3 – explains that the wagons were a sign Yosef sent to Yaakov. Yosef had instructed his brothers that, were Yaakov not to believe them when they told him that Yosef was still alive, they should tell him that Yosef sent him this message, “When I left you, was I not engaged in studying the subject of eglah arufah4with you?” This is intimated by the verse,5 “He saw the wagons Yosef sent,” because in Hebrew agalos, “wagons,” and eglah, “calf,” share the same root letters.

Building on that, the Midrash6interprets Yaakov’s exclamation in the next verse,7 “There is still great joy left for me. My son Yosef is still alive,” Yaakov was saying: “My son Yosef possesses great inner strength. Look how many difficulties he experienced, and yet he adhered to his righteousness to a far greater degree than I did!”

Clearly, the intent of the Midrash8 is to explain that when Yaakov said, “My son Yosef is still alive,” his intent was that not only was Yosef physically alive, but – and primarily – that he was spiritually alive. He was living as “my son Yosef,” a life befitting Yaakov’s son.9

א

עַל הַפָּסוּק77 “וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֲגָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח יוֹסֵף גו’ וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם” אִיתָא בְּמִדְרָשׁ78 (וְהוּבָא בְּפֵרוּשׁ רַשִׁ”י עַל הַתּוֹרָה79) שֶׁזֶּה הָיָה סִימָן שֶׁשָּׁלַח יוֹסֵף לְיַעֲקֹב, שֶׁאִם לֹא יַאֲמִין לָהֶם יַעֲקֹב שֶׁ”עוֹד יוֹסֵף חַי”, יֹאמְרוּ לוֹ שֶׁיּוֹסֵף מָסַר לוֹמַר: “בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁפָּרַשְׁתִּי מִמְּךָ . . בְּפָרָשַׁת עֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה הָיִיתִי עוֹסֵק” (וְזֶהוּ “וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֲגָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח יוֹסֵף”80): וּבְהֶמְשֵׁךְ לְזֶה מְפָרֵשׁ הַמִּדְרָשׁ81 (מַה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּפָסוּק שֶׁלְּאַחֲרֵי זֶה82) “וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל רַב עוֹד יוֹסֵף בְּנִי חָי”, שֶׁאָמַר יַעֲקֹב “רַב כֹּחוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף בְּנִי שֶׁכַּמָּה צָרוֹת הִגִּיעוּהוּ וַעֲדַיִן הוּא עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ הַרְבֵּה מִמֶּנִּי כו’”. וּבְפַשְׁטוּת כַּוָּנַת הַמִּדְרָשׁ83 לְפָרֵשׁ “עוֹד יוֹסֵף בְּנִי חָי” שֶׁהוּא חַי נוֹסָף עַל חַיִּים גַּשְׁמִיִּים, גַּם וּבְעִקָּר חַיִּים רוּחָנִיִּים, חַיִּים הַמַּתְאִימִים לִבְנוֹ שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב – “עוֹד יוֹסֵף בְּנִי חָי”84.

From the fact that the Midrash links the two – the sign that Yosef sent to his father that he was alive in a physical sense and Yaakov’s recognition that Yosef “adhered to his righteousness” and this was “his life” – it is logical to conclude that the two are interrelated: The sign that Yosef sent his father not only informed him that he was actually alive, but was primarily intended to demonstrate that he was still “adhering to his righteousness.”

וְהִנֵּה מִזֶּה שֶׁהַמִּדְרָשׁ סָמַךְ שְׁנֵי הָעִנְיָנִים זֶה לְזֶה – הַסִּימָן שֶׁמָּסַר יוֹסֵף לְאָבִיו שֶׁ"עוֹד יוֹסֵף חָי" בְּפַשְׁטוּת, וַאֲשֶׁר יַעֲקֹב הִכִּיר שֶׁיּוֹסֵף "עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ" וְאֵלֶּה הֵם חַיָּיו (זֶהוּ הַ"חַיִּים" שֶׁלּוֹ) – מִסְתַּבֵּר, שֶׁב' הָעִנְיָנִים שַׁיָּכִים זֶה לְזֶה, כְּלוֹמַר: הַסִּימָן שֶׁמָּסַר יוֹסֵף – נוֹסָף עַל שֶׁהָיָה לְהוֹדִיעַ לְיַעֲקֹב שֶׁעוֹד הוּא חַי בְּגַשְׁמִיּוּת, בָּא בְּעִקָּר לְהוֹכִיחַ שֶׁהוּא "עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ".

This is clearly understood. The fact that Yosef remembered the Torah subject that he was studying at the time he was separated from Yaakov, 22 years previously, demonstrates that his Torah knowledge was preserved and he was “adhering to his righteousness” as before.10

וּכְמוּבָן גַּם בְּפַשְׁטוּת – שֶׁזֶּה שֶׁיּוֹסֵף זוֹכֵר בְּאֵיזוֹ פָּרָשָׁה בַּתּוֹרָה הָיָה עוֹסֵק בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁפֵּרֵשׁ מִיַּעֲקֹב (מִלִּפְנֵי כ"ב שָׁנָה), הֲרֵי זוֹ הוֹכָחָה שֶׁתּוֹרָתוֹ שְׁמוּרָה אֶצְלוֹ וְהוּא עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקָתוֹ כְּמִקֶּדֶם85.

Further explanation is nevertheless required: It is obvious that all the acts – particularly those recorded in the Torah – performed by the Patriarchs and Yaakov’s sons reveal a precise intent. Thus, with regard to the matter at hand, it is clear that the sign Yosef gave his brothers to show Yaakov that he was alive was not a casual, incidental matter. Instead, the meaning of the sign (the subject of eglah arufah) is integrally connected to the message that Yosef was still alive. Indeed, various commentaries have explained the connection between the two at length.11 According to the above explanation – that the sign was intended to indicate to Yaakov that Yosef was still adhering to his righteousness – it is understood that the subject of eglah arufah is also relevant to this message.

אֲבָל עֲדַיִן צָרִיךְ בֵּאוּר: מוּבָן וּפָשׁוּט שֶׁכָּל מַעֲשֵׂי הָאָבוֹת וְהַשְּׁבָטִים (וּבִפְרָט אֵלֶּה הַמְסֻפָּרִים בַּתּוֹרָה) מְדֻיָּקִים בְּתַכְלִית. וְכֵן בְּעִנְיָנֵנוּ, שֶׁהַסִּימָן שֶׁמָּסַר יוֹסֵף לְיַעֲקֹב שֶׁעוֹד הוּא חַי, לֹא הָיָה סְתָם סִימָן בְּעָלְמָא (בְּעִנְיָן צְדָדִי), אֶלָּא שֶׁגַּם תֹּכֶן הַסִּימָן (פָּרָשַׁת עֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה) שַׁיָּךְ לְהַהוֹדָעָה שֶׁ”עוֹד יוֹסֵף חָי” (וּכְמוֹ שֶׁהֶאֱרִיכוֹ בִּמְפָרְשִׁים בְּבֵאוּר הַשַּׁיָּכוּת שֶׁבֵּינֵיהֶם86). וּלְפִי הַנַּ”ל, שֶׁכַּוָּנַת הַסִּימָן הָיְתָה לְהוֹכִיחַ לְיַעֲקֹב שֶׁהוּא עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ, מוּבָן שֶׁהַתֹּכֶן דְּפָרָשַׁת עֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה שַׁיָּךְ גַּם לְהוֹדָעָה זוֹ.

Confronting the Challenges of “the Field”

To offer a possible explanation: The import of eglah arufah is reflected in the straightforward meaning of the passage, as it is written:12

If a corpse be found on the land… fallen in the field, and it is not known who slew the person, then your elders and judges – i.e., the Great Sanhedrin13 – shall go forth, and they shall measure to the cities around the corpse… the elders of that city shall bring the calf down to a rugged valley… and all the elders of that city shall wash their hands over the calf… and they shall announce and say, “Our hands did not shed this blood....”

The reason for this rite is:14

a) to publicize that a corpse was found lying in the field so that it would be easier to find the murderer, and

b) also of primary importance, so that the general populace “will hear and fear” (to borrow an expression used in the Torah in several contexts),15 and in this way, from the outset do everything possible to prevent the possibility of a traveler being murdered.

ב

וְיֵשׁ לוֹמַר בְּזֶה:

עִנְיָנָהּ שֶׁל עֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה מְבֹאָר בְּפַשְׁטוּת הַכְּתוּבִים: "כִּי87 יִמָּצֵא חָלָל בַּאֲדָמָה . . נוֹפֵל בַּשָּׂדֶה לֹא נוֹדַע מִי הִכָּהוּ, וְיָצְאוּ זְקֵנֶיךָ וְשׁוֹפְטֶיךָ (סַנְהֶדְרֵי גְדוֹלָה88) וּמָדְדוּ גו' וְהוֹרִידוּ זִקְנֵי הָעִיר הַהִיא אֶת הָעֶגְלָה גו' וְכֹל זִקְנֵי הָעִיר הַהִיא גו' יִרְחֲצוּ אֶת יְדֵיהֶם גו' וְעָנוּ וְאָמְרוּ יָדֵינוּ לֹא שָׁפְכוּ אֶת הַדָּם הַזֶּה גו'". וּמְבֹאָר הַטַּעַם בַּדָּבָר89 – כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתְפַּרְסֵם הַמְּאֹרָע שֶׁהָיָה "חָלָל . . נוֹפֵל בַּשָּׂדֶה", אֲשֶׁר עַל יְדֵי זֶה יִהְיֶה נָקֵל יוֹתֵר לִמְצוֹא אֶת הָרוֹצֵחַ כו', וְעוֹד (וְגַם זֶה עִקָּר) – כְּדֵי שֶׁ"יִּשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ גו'" (כְּמוּבָא בַּנּוֹגֵעַ לְכַמָּה עִנְיָנִים90), הַיְנוּ, לִשְׁלוֹל מִלְּכַתְּחִלָּה אֶת הָאֶפְשָׁרוּת דְּ"חָלָל . . בַּשָּׂדֶה".

To explain the parallel to this concept in our Divine service: G‑d is the source of life, as indicated by the verse,16 “You who are attached to G‑d your L‑rd are all alive today.” In a spiritual sense, a “corpse” is one whose attachment (deveikus) to G‑d was interrupted.

The cause of this interruption is the fact that he was in the field – (and more specifically, that he had “ ‘fallen’ – descended – in the field”)17 – a place associated withEsav… the man of the field.”18Esav schemes to trap those who have strayed into the field – outside the tent of Torah and Judaism – and cut them off from their attachment to the living G‑d, their source of life, and leave them as “corpses … in the field,” or at least to weaken their attachment to Him.

וּבֵאוּר הָעִנְיָן – בַּעֲבוֹדַת ה':

"חָלָל" בְּמוּבָן רוּחָנִי הוּא זֶה שֶׁנִּפְסְקָה דְּבֵקוּתוֹ בְּהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁהוּא מְקוֹר חַיּוּתוֹ, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר91 "וְאַתֶּם הַדְּבֵקִים בַּה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם הַיּוֹם". וְהַגּוֹרֵם לְזֶה הוּא לִהְיוֹת נִמְצָא "בַּשָּׂדֶה" ("נוֹפֵל בַּשָּׂדֶה"92) – מְקוֹמוֹ שֶׁל "עֵשָׂו . . אִישׁ שָׂדֶה"93, שֶׁמִּתְנַכֵּל לְאוֹתָם שֶׁנִּמְצָאִים "בַּשָּׂדֶה" (וְלֹא בְּאָהֳלָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה וְיַהֲדוּת) לְנַתְּקָם חַס וְשָׁלוֹם מִדְּבֵקוּתָם בֵּאלֹקִים חַיִּים מְקוֹר חַיּוּתָם וּלְהַפִּילָם חֲלָלִים רַחֲמָנָא לִצְלָן – "חָלָל . . בַּשָּׂדֶה", אוֹ עַל כָּל פָּנִים לְהַחֲלִישׁ בָּהֶם אֶת הָעִנְיָן דִּ"וְאַתֶּם הַדְּבֵקִים בַּה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם גו"'.

This challenge is addressed by the Torah’s directive, “Your elders and judges shall go forth….” This is the task and responsibility of the elders and judges of the Jewish people as a whole – including the High Court in Jerusalem – to do whatever is dependent on them to correct the state of their fellow Jews and prevent the possibility of there being “a corpse… in the field.”19

This theme is emphasized by their pronouncement,20 “Our hands did not shed this blood,” interpreted21 to mean, “We did not see him and allow him to leave without provisions and accompaniment.” The intent is that the elders of the city have the responsibility to accompany every Jew who, in a spiritual sense, goes out from the city to the field. They must provide him with provisions for his journey – i.e., Torah, which is described with the analogy of food22 and garments, which serve as an analogy for mitzvos. Thus, Tana D’Bei Eliyahu Rabbah23comments on the verse,24 “If you see one who is naked, clothe him”:

If you see a person who does not possess knowledge of the words of Torah, bring him into your home and teach him to recite the Shema and the prayers…. Encourage him to perform mitzvos, for the meaning of a person who has been denuded among the Jewish people is solely one who is lacking in the Torah and its mitzvos.

It is the responsibility of the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people to care for those going out to the field, to strengthen them and defend them from all the dangers lurking while he is in the field.

וְעַל זֶה בָּאָה הוֹרָאַת הַתּוֹרָה – "וְיָצְאוּ זְקֵנֶיךָ וְשׁוֹפְטֶיךָ גו'", שֶׁזֶּהוּ מִתַּפְקִידָם וְאַחֲרָיוּתָם שֶׁל זִקְנֵי וְשׁוֹפְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּכְלָל, כּוֹלֵל בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבִּירוּשָׁלַיִם, לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל הַתָּלוּי בָּהֶם לְתַקֵּן הַמַּצָּב וְלִשְׁלוֹל מִכֹּל וָכֹל אֶת הַמְּצִיאוּת דְּ"חָלָל . . בַּשָּׂדֶה"94. וּכְמֻדְגָּשׁ גַּם בְּהַכְרָזָתָם95 "יָדֵינוּ לֹא שָׁפְכוּ אֶת הַדָּם הַזֶּה" – "לֹא96 רְאִינוּהוּ וּפְטַרְנוּהוּ בְּלֹא מְזוֹנוֹת וּבְלֹא לְוִיָּה", דְּהַיְנוּ, שֶׁזּוֹהִי חוֹבָתָם שֶׁל זִקְנֵי הָעִיר לְלַוֹּת כָּל אִישׁ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל הַיּוֹצֵא מֵהָעִיר (אֶל הַשָּׂדֶה) וּלְהַסְפִּיק לוֹ צֵידָה לַדֶּרֶךְ – מָזוֹן, זוֹ תּוֹרָה שֶׁנִּקְרֵאת מָזוֹן97, וְכֵן לְבוּשִׁים – מִצְוֹת [כִּדְאִיתָא בְּתָנָא דְּבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ רַבָּה98 עַל הַפָּסוּק99 "כִּי תִרְאֶה עָרוֹם וְכִסִּיתוֹ" – "אִם רָאִיתָ אָדָם שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה הַכְנִיסֵהוּ לְבֵיתְךָ וְלַמְּדֵהוּ קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּתְפִלָּה כו' וְזָרְזֵהוּ בַּמִּצְוֹת לְפִי שֶׁאֵין לְךָ עָרוֹם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָּא מִי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ תּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת"], כְּדֵי לְחַזְּקוֹ וּלְהָגִין עָלָיו מִכָּל הַסַּכָּנוֹת הָאוֹרְבוֹת לוֹ בִּהְיוֹתוֹ "בַּשָּׂדֶה".

On this basis, it is possible to explain the inner rationale why Yaakov was studying the passage of eglah arufah with Yosef before they were separated. Before Yosef descended to Egypt25 (“the nakedness of the land”26), where he was “taken captive among the nations,”27 he needed additional spiritual strength to “adhere to his righteousness” there. This was the purpose of Yaakov teaching him the passage of eglah arufah, because it charges the elders of the city with the task of accompanying a person going out to the field and providing him with everything he needs while he is in the field. Studying this passage empowered Yosef to “adhere to his righteousness,” even in Egypt.

וְעַל פִּי זֶה יֵשׁ לְבָאר הַטַּעַם (הַפְּנִימִי) לְזֶה, שֶׁבְּשָׁעָה שֶׁפֵּרֵשׁ יוֹסֵף מִיַּעֲקֹב הָיוּ עוֹסְקִים בְּפָרָשַׁת עֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה דַּוְקָא:

לִפְנֵי יְרִידָתוֹ100 שֶׁל יוֹסֵף לְמִצְרַיִם, "עֶרְוַת הָאָרֶץ"101, שֶׁהָיָה שָׁם בְּאֹפֶן שֶׁל "נִשְׁבָּה לְבֵין הַגּוֹיִם"102 – הֲרֵי בִּזְמַן הַהוּא הָיָה צָרִיךְ לְהוֹסָפַת כֹּחַ רוּחָנִי כְּדֵי לַעֲמוֹד שָׁם בְּצִדְקוֹ – וְזֶהוּ שֶׁלָּמַד אִתּוֹ יַעֲקֹב פָּרָשַׁת עֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה, שֶׁבָּהּ מֻזְהָרִים זִקְנֵי הָעִיר עַל תַּפְקִידָם לְהִתְעַסֵּק בִּלְוָיַת הָאִישׁ הַהוֹלֵךְ לַ"שָּׂדֶה" וְלָתֵת לוֹ אֶת כָּל צְרָכָיו כָּל זְמַן הֱיוֹתוֹ בַּשָּׂדֶה, כַּנַּ"ל – שֶׁזּוֹהִי הַנְּתִינַת כֹּחַ לְיוֹסֵף לַעֲמוֹד בְּצִדְקוֹ גַּם בְּמִצְרַיִם.

Therefore, when Yosef wanted to show Yaakov he was (also) spiritually alive, he told his brothers to give Yaakov this sign, the passage of eglah arufah. Yosef was intimating that he kept this passage in mind at all times and the strength it imparted enabled him not to be influenced at all by his surroundings in Egypt, but rather to maintain his Torah knowledge and righteousness.

When Yaakov saw the wagons, “the spirit of Yaakov came alive;”1 Yaakov was granted new spiritual life. In particular, this is true because Yaakov’s spiritual vitality is dependent on the spiritual vitality of his children,28 as our Sages state,29 “Just as his descendants are alive, so too is he alive.”

וְלָכֵן, כַּאֲשֶׁר רָצָה יוֹסֵף לְהוֹכִיחַ לְיַעֲקֹב שֶׁהוּא חַי (גַּם) בְּמוּבָן הָרוּחָנִי, מָסַר עַל יְדֵי אֶחָיו “סִימָן” זֶה לְיַעֲקֹב, שֶׁ”פָּרָשַׁת עֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה” הָיְתָה לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו, וּבְכֹחַ זֶה לֹא הֻשְׁפַּע כְּלָל מֵהַסְּבִיבָה בְּמִצְרַיִם וְנִשְׁאַר שָׁלֵם בְּתוֹרָתוֹ וְצִדְקָתוֹ; וְכַאֲשֶׁר רָאָה יַעֲקֹב “אֶת הָעֲגָלוֹת גו’ – וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם”, שֶׁנִּמְשְׁכָה חַיּוּת חֲדָשָׁה בְּרוּחָנִיּוּתוֹ (רוּחַ) שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב, וּבִפְרָט שֶׁחַיִּים (הָרוּחָנִיִּים) שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב תְּלוּיָה בְּחַיֵּיהֶם שֶׁל זַרְעוֹ103, כְּמַאֲמָר104 “מַה זַּרְעוֹ בַּחַיִּים אַף הוּא בַּחַיִּים”.

Beyond Despair

Further explanation is nevertheless required. The Midrash cited above interprets Yaakov’s words, “There is still great joy left for me. My son Yosef is still alive,” as implying: “ ‘Great’ is the inner strength of my son Yosef…. He adhered to his righteousness to a far greater degree than I did. I sinned, saying, ‘My path is hidden from G‑d.’ ”30

In another source, the Midrash31explains that Yaakov had experienced despair that did not befit him. Thus, it comments on Yaakov’s words to his sons,32 “Why have you brought evil upon me by telling the man that you have another brother?”

So said the Holy One, blessed be He: “I am busy making his son a ruler in Egypt, and he complains, ‘Why have you brought evil upon me?’ ” G‑d’s displeasure is indicated by the verse,30 “Yaakov, why should you say… ‘My path is hidden from G‑d.’ ”

On the surface, it is necessary to understand why it was necessary at this juncture for Yaakov to say that Yosef “adhered to his righteousness to a far greater degree than I did.”

ג

אָמְנָם עֲדַיִן צָרִיךְ לְהָבִין: בְּמִדְרָשׁ שָׁם מְפָרֵשׁ דִּבְרֵי יַעֲקֹב “רַב עוֹד יוֹסֵף בְּנִי חָי” – “רַב כֹּחוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף בְּנִי . . הוּא עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ הַרְבֵּה מִמֶּנִּי שֶׁחָטָאתִי שֶׁאָמַרְתִּי105 נִסְתְּרָה דַרְכִּי מֵה’” [כִּמְבֹאָר בְּמִדְרָשׁ106 בְּדִבְרֵי יַעֲקֹב לְבָנָיו107 “לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתֶם לִי לְהַגִּיד לָאִישׁ הַעוֹד לָכֶם אָח” – “כָּךְ אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אֲנִי עוֹסֵק לְהַמְלִיךְ אֶת בְּנוֹ בְּמִצְרַיִם וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתֶם לִי . . נִסְתְּרָה דַרְכִּי מֵה’”] – דְּלִכְאוֹרָה, לְמַאי נַפְקָא־מִנָּהּ כַּאן, שֶׁיּוֹסֵף “עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ הַרְבֵּה מִמֶּנִּי”?

Another point requires explanation: According to Jewish custom – which is comparable to the Torah itself33the reading for the third aliyah (or according to other customs,34 the fourth aliyah) – ends with the verse, “They told him all of Yosef’s words… and he saw the wagons Yosef sent… and the spirit of Yaakov came alive.” The following verse, “Yisrael said, ‘There is still great joy left for me. My son Yosef is still alive,’ ” begins the reading for the fourth (or the fifth) aliyah. Why is an interruption made in the middle of a narrative?

גַּם צָרִיךְ בֵּאוּר: עַל פִּי מִנְהַג יִשְׂרָאֵל – שֶׁ"תּוֹרָה הוּא" – מְסַיְּמִים לִ"שְׁלִישִׁי" (וּלְכַמָּה מִנְהָגִים108 – לִ"רְבִיעִי") שֶׁל קְרִיאַת הַפָּרָשָׁה בַּפָּסוּק "וַיְדַבְּרוּ גו' וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֲגָלוֹת גו' וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם", וּבַפָּסוּק שֶׁלְּאַחֲרֵי זֶה – "וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל רַב עוֹד יוֹסֵף בְּנִי חָי גו'" – מַתְחִיל לִ"רְבִיעִי" (אוֹ לַ"חֲמִישִׁי"). וְאֵינוֹ מוּבָן – מַדּוּעַ מַפְסִיקִים בְּאֶמְצַע עִנְיָן?

A similar question arises regarding the beginning of the reading for the third aliyah. That reading begins in the middle of Yosef’s words of reassurance to his brothers,35 “And now, it was not you who sent me here, but G‑d, and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, a lord over all his household, and a ruler over the entire land of Egypt.” On the surface, this verse emphasizes and continues the message from the preceding verses, in which Yosef tells his brothers:36 “I am your brother Yosef… But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was for the sake of sustenance that G‑d sent me before you. For already two years of famine have passed…. G‑d sent me before you so there would be a posterity of yours in the land, and to enable you to live via a great deliverance.”

These verses conclude the reading for the second aliyah. The following verse, “And now, it was not you who sent me here…” begins the reading for the third aliyah. Why is an interruption made in the middle of Yosef’s words to his brothers when both verses emphasize the same theme – that his descent into Egypt was part of a Divine mission?

וְהוּא הַדָּבָר בִּתְחִלַּת "שְׁלִישִׁי", הַמַּתְחִיל בְּאֶמְצַע דִּבְרֵי יוֹסֵף אֶל הַשְּׁבָטִים "וְעַתָּה109 לֹא אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אוֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי הָאֱלֹקִים וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְאָב לְפַרְעֹה וּלְאָדוֹן לְכָל בֵּיתוֹ וּמוֹשֵׁל בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם" – דְּלִכְאוֹרָה הֲרֵי זֶה הֶמְשֵׁךְ מֻדְגָּשׁ לִפְסוּקִים שֶׁלִּפְנֵי זֶה110 (שֶׁיּוֹסֵף אָמַר לְאֶחָיו) "אֲנִי יוֹסֵף גו' וְעַתָּה אַל תֵּעָצְבוּ וְאַל יִחַר בְּעֵינֵיכֶם כִּי מְכַרְתֶּם אוֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי לְמִחְיָה שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹקִים לִפְנֵיכֶם, כִּי זֶה שְׁנָתַיִם הָרָעָב גו' וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֱלֹקִים לִפְנֵיכֶם לָשׂוּם לָכֶם שְׁאֵרִית בָּאָרֶץ וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לָכֶם לִפְלֵיטָה גְּדוֹלָה" (וּבְזֶה מִסְתַּיֵּם "שֵׁנִי", וּבַפָּסוּק שֶׁלְּאַחֲרֵי זֶה מַתְחִיל "וְעַתֶּה לֹא אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם גו'") – שֶׁמַּפְסִיקִים בְּאֶמְצַע דִּבְרֵי יוֹסֵף לְאֶחָיו הָעוֹסְקִים בְּתֹכֶן אֶחָד (שֶׁיְּרִידָתוֹ לְמִצְרַיִם הָיְתָה בִּשְׁלִיחוּת הַשֵּׁם)?

There is another puzzling point: Yosef’s emphasis on negating his brothers’ guilt –“It was not you who sent me here, but G‑d” – seems more closely related to his initial statements, “Do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here.” He was telling his brothers, “Do not be sad” because “It was not you who sent me here, but G‑d.” Why is this emphasis made after pausing to begin the third aliyah, before continuing Yosef’s words: “He – i.e., G‑d – has made me a father to Pharaoh, a lord over all his household, and a ruler over the entire land of Egypt”?

גַּם אֵינוֹ מוּבָן: הַדְגָּשַׁת הַשְּׁלִילָה – “לֹא אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אוֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי הָאֱלֹקִים” – שַׁיֶּכֶת יוֹתֵר לְעֵיל, בְּתוֹר טַעַם לַאֲמִירַת יוֹסֵף לְאֶחָיו “אַל תֵּעָצְבוּ וְאַל יִחַר בְּעֵינֵיכֶם כִּי מְכַרְתֶּם אוֹתִי הֵנָּה”, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁ”לֹּא אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אוֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי הָאֱלֹקִים” – וּמַדּוּעַ נֶאֶמְרָה הַדְגָּשָׁה זוֹ דַּוְקָא אַחַר כָּךְ (לְאַחַר הַפְסָקַת “שְׁלִישִׁי”) בְּהֶמְשֵׁךְ אֶחָד עִם “וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְאָב לְפַרְעֹה וּלְאָדוֹן לְכָל בֵּיתוֹ וּמוֹשֵׁל בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם”?

Yosef’s Spiritual Legacy

It could be said that all the above can be explained as follows: The reason that Yosef was the first Jew to descend to Egypt – and that his descent was the cause and the beginning37 of the entire Jewish people’s descent there – was that the descent to Egypt relates to the unique and novel dimension that characterized Yosef’s Divine service.

ד

וְיֵשׁ לוֹמַר הַבֵּאוּר בְּכָל זֶה:

הַטַּעַם לְזֶה שֶׁיּוֹסֵף הוּא הָרִאשׁוֹן מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיָּרַד מִצְרַיְמָה – וְזֶה הָיָה סִבָּה וְהַתְחָלָה111 לִירִידַת כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמִצְרַיִם – הוּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַיְרִידָה לְמִצְרַיִם שַׁיֶּכֶת לְחִדּוּשׁ הַמְּיֻחָד שֶׁבַּעֲבוֹדַת יוֹסֵף:

As explained in many sources,38 the reason the Patriarchs and Yaakov’s sons chose to be shepherds is because that occupation does not involve a great degree of difficulty and allows one to remain removed from worldly matters. Thus, it did not disturb their continuous attachment (deveikus) to G‑d.

Yosef, by contrast, followed a different path of Divine service. He was deeply involved with worldly matters. In Potiphar’s house, Potiphar appointed him “over his house and entrusted everything he owned to his hand.”39 Similarly, when he was in jail, the chief warden entrusted him with “all the prisoners… and everything that was done there was done by his word.”40 How much more so did this apply when he became the viceroy and controlled all the affairs of Egypt, to the extent that “By your command, all my people shall be nourished”41 and “Without your consent, no one may lift his hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt!”42 Nevertheless, all this immense involvement did not confound or disturb him and he remained attached to G‑d with an all-encompassing bond.

מְבֹאָר בְּכַמָּה מְקוֹמוֹת112 הַטַּעַם שֶׁהָאָבוֹת וְהַשְּׁבָטִים בָּחֲרוּ לִהְיוֹת רוֹעֵי צֹאן, כִּי הִתְעַסְּקוּת זוֹ – שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ טִרְדָּא (יְתֵרָה) וְנִמְצָאִים בְּמַצָּב שֶׁל הִתְבּוֹדְדוּת מֵעִנְיְנֵי הָעוֹלָם – לֹא הִפְרִיעָה אוֹתָם מִלִּהְיוֹת בְּמַצָּב שֶׁל דְּבֵקוּת תְּמִידִית בֵּאלֹקוּת; אֲבָל יוֹסֵף שׁוֹנֶה בַּעֲבוֹדָתוֹ מֵהָאָבוֹת וּשְׁאָר הַשְּׁבָטִים, שֶׁגַּם בִּהְיוֹתוֹ עָסוּק בְּעִנְיְנֵי הָעוֹלָם, הֵן בְּבֵית פּוֹטִיפַר כַּאֲשֶׁר הִפְקִידוֹ "עַל בֵּיתוֹ וְכָל יֶשׁ לוֹ נָתַן בְּיָדוֹ"113, וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה בְּבֵית הַסֹּהַר, שֶׁנָּתַן בְּיָדוֹ "אֵת כָּל הָאֲסִירִים . . וְאֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עוֹשִׂים שָׁם הוּא הָיָה עוֹשֶׂה"114, וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן כְּשֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה מִשְׁנֶה לְמֶלֶךְ וְנִהֵל כָּל עִנְיְנֵי מִצְרַיִם ("וְעַל פִּיךָ יִשַּׁק כָּל עַמִּי . . וּבִלְעָדֶיךָ לֹא יָרִים אִישׁ גו'"115) – כָּל הַטִּרְדּוֹת הָעֲצוּמוֹת הַלָּלוּ לֹא בִלְבְּלוּ אוֹתוֹ וְלֹא הִטְרִידוּהוּ וְהָיָה בְּתַכְלִית הַדְּבֵקוּת בֵּאלֹקוּת.

This is the inner reason why the descent of the Jewish people to Egypt began with Yosef. Through his Divine service there, Yosef empowered the Jewish people to emulate his conduct and maintain their spiritual integrity even while in exile in Egypt, “in a land not their own.”43

וּבְזֶה יוּבַן הַטַּעַם (הַפְּנִימִי) שֶׁהַתְחָלַת יְרִידַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמִצְרַיִם הָיְתָה עַל יְדֵי יְרִידָתוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף, כִּי יוֹסֵף (בַּעֲבוֹדָתוֹ שָׁם) הוּא שֶׁנָּתַן כֹּחַ בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל116 לְהַחֲזִיק מַעֲמָד גַּם בִּהְיוֹתָם בְּגָלוּת, בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם, בְּמִצְרַיִם.

This was Yosef’s intent in telling his brothers, “It was for the sake of sustenance that G‑d sent me before you.… G‑d sent me before you so there would be a posterity of yours in the land.” Yosef’s descent to Egypt was a mission from G‑d to open the channel of Divine service in that land and empower the Jews44 to maintain themselves in exile, to live with spiritual vitality even there, as it is written,16 “You who are attached to G‑d your L‑rd are all alive today,” even in Egypt.

וְזוֹ הָיְתָה כַּוָּנַת יוֹסֵף בְּאָמְרוֹ לְאֶחָיו – "לְמִחְיָה שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹקִים לִפְנֵיכֶם . . וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֱלֹקִים לִפְנֵיכֶם לָשׂוּם לָכֶם שְׁאֵרִית בָּאָרֶץ", שֶׁיְּרִידָתוֹ לְמִצְרַיִם הָיְתָה שְׁלִיחוּת מֵאֵת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, כְּדֵי "לִפְתּוֹחַ אֶת הַצִּנּוֹר" וְלָתֵת כֹּחַ לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ לְהַחֲזִיק מַעֲמָד בְּגָלוּת, לִחְיוֹת בְּחַיִּים רוּחָנִיִּים, "וְאַתֶּם הַדְּבֵקִים בַּה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם חַיִּים", גַּם בְּמִצְרַיִם.

On this basis, it is possible to understand Yosef’s precise choice of wording when he told his brothers, “It was for the sake of sustenance that G‑d sent me…,” “G‑d sent me,” and “It was not you who sent me here, but G‑d.”45In all the above verses, when referring to G‑d, Yosef specifically used the name Elokim, the name of G‑d identified with the attribute of judgment and might, and not the name י-ה-ו-ה, the name of G‑d identified with the attribute of mercy. The rationale is that this Divine mission involved a descent into exile, a place where G‑dliness is hidden, in a manner that brought about pain and anguish for Yosef and Yaakov. G‑d’s mercies were not overtly apparent. Even in such a situation, Yosef made it possible for his descent there to bring about “sustenance… to enable you to live via a great deliverance.”

וּבְזֶה יוּבַן גַּם כֵּן דִּיּוּק לְשׁוֹנוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף “לְמִחְיָה שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹקִים . . וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֱלֹקִים . . וְעַתָּה לֹא אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אוֹתִי הִנֵּה כִּי הָאֱלֹקִים”117 – שֵׁם אֱלֹקִים דַּוְקָא, מִדַּת הַדִּין וְהַגְּבוּרָה (וְלֹא שֵׁם הֲוָיָ’, מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים) – כִּי שְׁלִיחוּת זוֹ הִיא בְּאֹפֶן שֶׁל יְרִידָה לְגָלוּת, מָקוֹם שֶׁל הֶעְלֵם וְהֶסְתֵּר כו’ [וּבְאֹפֶן שֶׁגָּרַם צַעַר וְעָגְמַת נֶפֶשׁ לְיוֹסֵף וּלְיַעֲקֹב וכו’] שֶׁלֹּא נִכָּרִין בּוֹ רַחֲמָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּאֹפֶן גָּלוּי – וְגַם בְּמַצָּב זֶה, פָּעַל יוֹסֵף שֶׁיְּרִידָתוֹ שָׁם תִּהְיֶה “לְמִחְיָה . . לְהַחֲיוֹת לָכֶם לִפְלֵיטָה גְּדוֹלָה”.

To Master Darkness

Nevertheless, this was not the ultimate purpose of Yosef’s mission in Egypt. What has been described until now involves only negating the harmful influences of Egypt, defending the Jews against the undesirable aspects of exile. As explained, Yosef’s Divine service enabled them to remain attached to G‑d as they were before, even in this new setting. However, this was not the primary contribution of Yosef.

ה

אָמְנָם עִנְיָן זֶה עֲדַיִן אֵינוֹ תַּכְלִית שְׁלִיחוּתוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף לְמִצְרַיִם – שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵין זוֹ אֶלָּא תּוֹעֶלֶת וּפְעֻלָּה שְׁלִילִית – הַגָּנָה מֵהָעִנְיָנִים הַבִּלְתִּי־רְצוּיִים שֶׁבְּגָלוּת, כְּדֵי שֶׁהָאָדָם יִשָּׁאֵר דָּבוּק בֵּאלֹקִים (כְּמִקֹּדֶם) גַּם בְּמַצָּב זֶה –

The fundamental and novel element of Yosef’s Divine service was – as his name implies46the ability to increase.47 In that vein, Rachel’s prayer when she named him48Yosef HaShem li ben achair, “May G‑d increase for me another son”– is interpreted49 to mean that Yosef has the potential to transform even one who is an achair, an “other”(estranged from the realm of holiness), into a “son” for G‑d.

Not only does Yosef remain unaffected by the challenges and obstacles of the exile, but he takes control over them and subjugates them to holiness.

עִקַּר חִדּוּשׁוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף הוּא – כִּשְׁמוֹ – יוֹסֵף מִלְּשׁוֹן הוֹסָפָה118, וּכְהַפֵּרוּשׁ119 בַּפָּסוּק120 "יוֹסֵף ה' לִי בֵּן אַחֵר", שֶׁעִנְיָנוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף הוּא, שֶׁמְּהַפֵּךְ גַּם אֶת "אַחֵר" (הַיְנוּ מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ שַׁיָּךְ לְצַד הַקְּדֻשָּׁה), שֶׁיִּהְיֶה "בֵּן" לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא. כְּלוֹמַר, לֹא רַק שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִתְפָּעֵל מֵהַמְּנִיעוֹת וְעִכּוּבִים שֶׁבַּגָּלוּת, אֶלָּא אַדְּרַבָּה, שֶׁהוּא שׁוֹלֵט עֲלֵיהֶם עַד שֶׁכּוֹבְשָׁם תַּחַת מֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַקְּדֻשָּׁה.

In a similar manner, Rambam states that Mashiach will perform a two-fold mission. He will “renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty… so that the observance of all the statutes will return to their previous state,”50 by “building the Beis HaMikdash in its place.”51In addition to this achievement on behalf of the Jewish people, enabling them to serve G‑d in a consummate manner, he will “improve the entire world, motivating all the nations to serve G‑d together, as it is written,52 ‘I will transform the peoples to a purer language that they all will call upon the name of G‑d....’ ”51

[וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ דִּבְרֵי הָרַמְבַּ"ם בַּנּוֹגֵעַ לְמֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ, שֶׁתַּפְקִידוֹ הוּא לֹא רַק "לְהַחֲזִיר מַלְכוּת דָּוִד לְיָשְׁנָהּ . . (כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ) חוֹזְרִין כָּל הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים בְּיָמָיו כְּשֶׁהָיוּ מִקֹּדֶם"121 עֲבוּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל (עַל יְדֵי שֶׁיִּבְנֶה מִקְדָּשׁ בִּמְקוֹמוֹ), דְּהַיְנוּ שֶׁבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יַעַבְדוּ אֶת הַשֵּׁם בְּתַכְלִית הַשְּׁלֵמוּת, אֶלָּא גַּם "יְתַקֵּן122 אֶת הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ לַעֲבוֹד אֶת ה' בְּיַחַד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר123 כִּי אָז אֶהְפּוֹךְ אֶל עַמִּים שָׂפָה בְרוּרָה לִקְרוֹא כֻלָּם בְּשֵׁם ה' וגו'"].

Yosef performed similar activities in Egypt. He was the viceroy and “Without his consent, no one could lift his hand or his foot in the entire land of Egypt;”42 “Yosef was the ruler over the land.”53 As related at the end of this Torah reading,54 Yosef purchased the Egyptians and their land and transferred the populace from one end of Egypt to the other. He did all this not only to establish his rule over the Egyptians in a physical sense, but also so that they would recognize55 “the G‑d of heaven and earth”56 and observe the Seven Universal Laws Commanded to Noach and his Descendants.57Indeed, Yosef’s efforts to refine the Egyptians extended to – as our Sages comment,58 cited by Rashi59 – his compelling them to circumcise themselves.60

וּכְפִי שֶׁהָיָה בְּפֹעַל בְּיוֹסֵף בְּמִצְרַיִם, שֶׁהָיָה מִשְׁנֶה לְמֶלֶךְ, דְּ”בִלְעָדֶיךָ לֹא יָרִים אִישׁ אֶת יָדוֹ וְאֶת רַגְלוֹ בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם”124, וְיוֹסֵף שָׁלַט עֲלֵיהֶם בְּפֹעַל, “וְיוֹסֵף הוּא הַשַּׁלִּיט עַל הָאָרֶץ”125 [וְכִמְסֻפָּר בַּאֲרֻכָּה בְּסוֹף פַּרְשָׁתֵנוּ126 שֶׁיּוֹסֵף קָנָה הַמִּצְרִים וְאֶת אַדְמָתָם, וְעוֹד הֶעֱבִירָם מִקְצֵה גְבוּל מִצְרַיִם וְעַד קָצֵהוּ וכו’], וְכַוָּנַת יוֹסֵף הָיְתָה לֹא רַק לִשְׁלִיטָה גַשְׁמִית, אֶלָּא127 שֶׁיַּכִּירוּ אֶת אֱלֹקֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וֵאלֹקֵי הָאָרֶץ, וִיקַיְּמוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת בְּנֵי נֹחַ128, וְעַד שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַזַ”ל129 – וְהוּבָא בְּפֵרוּשׁ רַשִׁ”י עַל הַתּוֹרָה130 – שֶׁהִכְרִיחָם שֶׁיִּמּוֹלוּ אֶת עַצְמָם131.

Two Missions

There is a fundamental difference between these two dimensions of Yosef’s mission in Egypt, namely:

a) He empowered the Jews so that the influences of Egypt and exile would not disrupt their attachment to G‑d.

b) He ruled over the influences of exile to the extent that they were subjugated and transformed into holiness.

ו

וְהִנֵּה יֶשְׁנוֹ הֶבְדֵּל יְסוֹדִי בֵּין שְׁנֵי עִנְיָנִים אֵלּוּ בִּשְׁלִיחוּתוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף לְמִצְרַיִם – (א) נְתִינַת כֹּחַ בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁעִנְיְנֵי (מִצְרַיִם) הַגָּלוּת לֹא יַפְרִיעוּ אוֹתָם מִדְּבֵקוּתָם בַּה’, (ב) הַשְּׁלִיטָה עַל עִנְיְנֵי הַגָּלוּת – שֶׁיִּהְיוּ נִכְנָעִים וְעַד שֶׁהֵם עַצְמָם יֵהָפְכוּ לִקְדֻשָּׁה:

The potential to impart strength to the Jewish people so that the influences of exile would not disturb their attachment to G‑d was generated by Yosef. Nevertheless, this potential did not remain exclusively his. Yosef conveyed this power to every member of the Jewish people and enabled them to internalize it until they were identified with it.

הָעִנְיָן הָרִאשׁוֹן, הַתֹּקֶף שֶׁעִנְיְנֵי הַגָּלוּת לֹא יְבַלְבְּלוּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִדְּבֵקוּתָם בַּה', אַף שֶׁמְּקוֹרָהּ מִיּוֹסֵף, מִכָּל מָקוֹם, עַל יְדֵי יוֹסֵף נִמְשַׁךְ כֹּחַ זֶה בְּכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֹפֶן פְּנִימִי, עַד שֶׁזֶּה נִקְרָא עַל שְׁמוֹ שֶׁל כָּל אֶחָד וְאַחַת.

This is the inner meaning of our Sages’ statement,61 “The entire Jewish people are called Yosef because he sustained and nurtured them in the time of famine.” Yosef did not merely nurture his brothers in a physical sense. Rather, he provided them with spiritual nurture,44 empowering every Jew to live spiritually in an appropriate manner, even in a time of spiritual famine, despite the concealment of G‑dliness that characterizes exile. Moreover, Yosef imparted this potential to the Jewish people in a manner resembling food, nurture that becomes part of one’s flesh and blood; i.e., they identified with it to the extent that it became their own. Therefore, “the entire Jewish people are called Yosef,” because this quality that characterized Yosef became part of their own being.

וְזֶהוּ הַפֵּרוּשׁ הַפְּנִימִי בְּמַאֲמַר חַזַ"ל132 "כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל נִקְרָאִים עַל שֵׁם יוֹסֵף לְפִי שֶׁהוּא פִּרְנְסָם וְכִלְכְּלָם בִּימֵי הָרָעָב": כַּלְכָּלַת יוֹסֵף אֶת אֶחָיו בִּימֵי הָרָעָב כּוֹלֵל133 שֶׁיּוֹסֵף נָתַן כֹּחַ לְכָל אֶחָד וְאַחַת מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁגַּם בִּימֵי "רָעָב" רוּחָנִי – מַצָּב שֶׁל גָּלוּת וְהֶעְלֵם וְהֶסְתֵּר – יוּכְלוּ לִחְיוֹת חַיִּים רוּחָנִיִּים כִּדְבָעֵי, וְכֹחַ זֶה הִמְשִׁיךְ יוֹסֵף בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֹפֶן שֶׁל מָזוֹן, שֶׁנַּעֲשֶׂה דָּם וּבָשָׂר כִּבְשָׂרוֹ, הַיְנוּ שֶׁנִּתְעַצֵּם בָּהֶם לִהְיוֹת עִנְיָן שֶׁלָּהֶם. שֶׁלָּכֵן "כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל נִקְרָאִים עַל שֵׁם יוֹסֵף", כֵּיוָן שֶׁתְּכוּנָה זוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף נַעֲשֵׂית חֵלֶק מִמְּצִיאוּתָם הֵם.

However, the second objective – the potential to rule over Egypt – remained Yosef’s individual quality. Thus, he alone was the ruler over Egypt. True, the Jewish people as a whole possess the potential to rule over the influences of exile with absolute dominion (as Yosef did). However, this quality is not identified with them. It is Yosef’s alone. The power they have to rule over the influences of exile is only when they act as agents of Yosef.62

אֲבָל הָעִנְיָן הַשֵּׁנִי, הַשְּׁלִיטָה עַל מִצְרַיִם, שַׁיָּךְ רַק לְדַרְגַּת יוֹסֵף עַצְמוֹ, וּכְמוֹ בְּפַשְׁטוּת שֶׁרַק הוּא הַשַּׁלִּיט עַל מִצְרַיִם; וּמַה שֶּׁבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יְכוֹלִים לִשְׁלוֹט עַל עִנְיְנֵי הַגָּלוּת (בְּדֻגְמַת יוֹסֵף), אֵינוֹ דָּבָר הַמִּתְיַחֵס אֲלֵיהֶם אֶלָּא לְיוֹסֵף, וּבְפַשְׁטוּת – שֶׁכֹּחַ שְׁלִיטָתָם עַל עִנְיְנֵי הַגָּלוּת הוּא רַק בְּתוֹר שְׁלוּחָיו שֶׁל יוֹסֵף134.

When a Father Marvels at His Son

Based on the above, it is possible to explain the preciseness in the choice of a) the wording in the verses cited above and b) the point at which the reading for the third aliyah begins:63

ז

וְעַל פִּי זֶה מוּבָנִים הַדִּיּוּקִים דִּלְעֵיל (סְעִיף ג) בִּלְשׁוֹנוֹת הַכְּתוּבִים וַחֲלֻקַּת חֵלֶק “שְׁלִישִׁי” שֶׁל הַפָּרָשָׁה:

The two objectives mentioned above with regard to Yosef’s achievements in Egypt are reflected in the two dimensions mentioned by Yosef in his description of the mission on which “G‑d – Elokim – sent him” to Egypt:

a) “It was for the sake of sustenance” – interpreted by Rashi64 as “to be a source of sustenance for you” – “that G‑d sent me before you… so there would be a posterity of yours in the land, and to enable you to live via a great deliverance;” i.e., Yosef brought about a change within the Jewish people, empowering them to maintain their spiritual standing in exile.

b) “It was not you who sent me here, but G‑d. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, a lord over all his household, and a ruler over the entire land of Egypt.”35 This verse reflects the second mission with which Yosef was charged – to rule over Egypt.

ב' הָאוֹפַנִּים הַנַּ"ל בִּשְׁלִיחוּתוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף בְּמִצְרַיִם, הֵם הֵם שְׁנֵי הָעִנְיָנִים שֶׁאָמַר יוֹסֵף לְאֶחָיו בְּתֵאוּר שְׁלִיחוּתוֹ שֶׁשְּׁלָחוֹ "אֱלֹקִים" לְמִצְרַיִם: (א) "לְמִחְיָה (לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לְמִחְיָה135) שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹקִים לִפְנֵיכֶם . . לָשׂוּם לָכֶם שְׁאֵרִית בָּאָרֶץ וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לָכֶם לִפְלֵיטָה גְּדוֹלָה" – יוֹסֵף פָּעַל בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְנָתַן לָהֶם הַכֹּחַ לְהַחֲזִיק מַעֲמָד בַּגָּלוּת. (ב) "וְעַתָּה לֹא אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אוֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי הָאֱלֹקִים וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְאָב לְפַרְעֹה וּלְאָדוֹן לְכָל בֵּיתוֹ וּמוֹשֵׁל בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם" – פְּעֻלַּת שְׁלִיחוּתוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הוּא, יוֹסף, הַמּוֹשֵׁל וְהַשַּׁלִּיט עַל מִצְרַיִם.

This mission is also associated with G‑d’s name Elokim, for the dominion over the nations and the influence of exile relates to Elokim, the name of G‑d associated with judgment. (Indeed, for this reason, judges are referred to as elokim.65)

[וְגַם שְׁלִיחוּת זוֹ (הַשְּׁנִיָּה) שַׁיֶּכֶת לְשֵׁם אֱלֹקִים דַּוְקָא – כִּי הַמֶּמְשָׁלָה וְהַשְּׁלִיטָה עַל הָאֻמּוֹת (וְעִנְיְנֵי גָלוּת) שַׁיֶּכֶת לְשֵׁם אֱלֹקִים, עִנְיָן שֶׁל דִּין וּמִשְׁפָּט (שֶׁלָּכֵן נִקְרָאִים דַּיָּנִים בְּשֵׁם "אֱלֹקִים"136)].

On this basis, it can be explained why Yosef couched his words in the negative – “It was not you who sent me here” – only with regard to the second dimension of the mission. Possibly, Yosef’s purpose in choosing these words went beyond their straightforward meaning – that the reason for his descent to Egypt was not because of his brother’s intent in selling him to Egypt. He was telling them that this second dimension of his mission in Egypt, that G‑d “made him… a ruler over the entire land of Egypt” does not relate to them66 – “it was not you.” Instead, it reflects his own unique quality, as a result of which he became the ruler over the entire land.

וּבְזֶה יֵשׁ לְבָאֵר וּלְהַמְתִּיק שֶׁרַק בְּעִנְיָן הַשֵּׁנִי מַדְגִּישׁ הַשְּׁלִילָה "לֹא אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אוֹתִי הֵנָּה" – דְּיֵשׁ לוֹמַר שֶׁכַּוָּנַת יוֹסֵף בְּזֶה הִיא, לֹא רַק לִשְׁלוֹל (כְּפִי הַמַּשְׁמָעוּת בְּפַשְׁטוּת) שֶׁסִּבַּת יְרִידָתוֹ לְמִצְרַיִם לֹא הָיְתָה בִּגְלַל כַּוָּנָתָם שֶׁל הַשְּׁבָטִים (בִּמְכִירָתוֹ לְמִצְרַיִם), אֶלָּא, שֶׁשְּׁלִיחוּתוֹ לְמִצְרַיִם (מִצַּד תַּכְלִיתוֹ הַשְּׁנִיָּה הַנַּ"ל – "וַיְשִׂימֵנִי גו' וּמוֹשֵׁל בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם") אֵינָהּ שַׁיֶּכֶת אֲלֵיהֶם ("לֹא אַתֶּם") אֶלָּא רַק לְדַרְגָּתוֹ וּמַעֲלָתוֹ הַמְּיֻחֶדֶת, שֶׁהוּא הַשַּׁלִּיט עַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ.

The distinction between the two dimensions of Yosef’s mission is the reason why they are separated when the Torah is read and they are mentioned in two different aliyos. The second dimension of Yosef’s mission represents an aliyah, an ascent, over the first. That dimension specifically makes possible an increase,67as alluded to in the rationale for Yosef’s name, “May G‑d increase for me another son.”

וְזֶהוּ הַטַּעַם שֶׁבִּקְרִיאַת הַתּוֹרָה מַפְסִיקִים שְׁנֵי הָעִנְיָנִים לִשְׁתֵּי "עֲלִיּוֹת" – כִּי הָעִנְיָן הַשֵּׁנִי בִּשְׁלִיחוּת יוֹסֵף, הוּא נַעֲלֶה ("עֲלִיָּה") לְגַבֵּי הָעִנְיָן הָרִאשׁוֹן, שֶׁדַּוְקָא בּוֹ נַעֲשֵׂית הַהוֹסָפָה137 ("יוֹסֵף ה' לִי בֵּן אַחֵר").

Similar concepts apply regarding the interruption made between the description of Yaakov’s responses in the conclusion of the third aliyah and the beginning of the fourth aliyah. The first point, “He saw the wagons that Yosef sent,” demonstrated to Yaakov that Yosef adhered to his righteousness even in Egypt. As a result, “The spirit of Yaakov came alive.”

וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה הוּא בְּסִיּוּם "שְׁלִישִׁי", בַּנּוֹגֵעַ לְיַעֲקֹב:

הָעִנְיָן הָרִאשׁוֹן – "וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֲגָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח יוֹסֵף" הֶרְאָה לְיַעֲקֹב שֶׁיּוֹסֵף עוֹמֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ גַּם בְּמִצְרַיִם – "וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב" (כַּנַּ"ל).

Nevertheless, in a larger sense, Yaakov did not regard this as so great a novelty since he had experienced a somewhat similar challenge. He had spent 20 years in the household of Lavan the Aramite – a challenge that neither Avraham nor Yitzchak had faced. There, he labored “with all his strength,”68 and still emerged “with his Torah knowledge intact.”69As Rashi highlights, Yaakov was able to say,70 “I dwelled with Lavan the wicked, yet I observed the 613 mitzvos and did not learn from his evil deeds.”

אֲבָל אֵין זֶה עִנְיָן שֶׁל חִדּוּשׁ (כָּל כָּךְ) בַּנּוֹגֵעַ לְיַעֲקֹב – שֶׁהֲרֵי גַם אֶצְלוֹ מָצִינוּ דֻגְמָתוֹ (עַל כָּל פָּנִים מֵעֵין זֶה), שֶׁהָיָה כ' שָׁנָה בְּבֵית לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי (שֶׁלֹּא מָצִינוּ כָּזֹאת אֵצֶל אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק), וְעָבַד שָׁם בְּכָל כֹּחוֹ138 – וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם הָיָה "שָׁלֵם בְּתוֹרָתוֹ"139, "עִם לָבָן הָרָשָׁע גַּרְתִּי וְתַרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת שָׁמַרְתִּי וְלֹא לָמַדְתִּי מִמַּעֲשָׂיו הָרָעִים"140.

By contrast, the second dimension of Yosef’s mission – that he became the ruler of Egypt – was a novelty, unable to be foreseen even by Yaakov.71 Therefore, after stating that “The spirit of Yaakov came alive,” the Torah further adds that Yaakov exclaimed, “There is still great joy left for me. My son Yosef is still alive.” As the Midrash explains, Yaakov was marveling that Yosef’s inner strength was “great,” more so than his own.72

For this reason, this point is stated in a different aliyah, at the beginning of the fourth aliyah,since – as explained above – it reflects a loftier level of Divine service.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן הָעִנְיָן הַשֵּׁנִי הַנַּ”ל, שֶׁיּוֹסֵף נַעֲשָׂה הַשַּׁלִּיט עַל כָּל מִצְרַיִם – זֶהוּ חִדּוּשׁ גַּם לְגַבֵּי יַעֲקֹב141. וְלָכֵן, לְאַחֲרֵי שֶׁ”וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב” הוֹסִיף וְאָמַר “רַב עוֹד יוֹסֵף בְּנִי חָי”, שֶׁכֹּחוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף הוּא “רַב” וְ”הַרְבֵּה מִמֶּנִּי”142 [וְלָכֵן בָּא עִנְיָן זֶה בַּ”עֲלִיָּה” אַחֶרֶת, עַל דֶּרֶךְ הַנַּ”ל בִּתְחִלַּת “שְׁלִישִׁי”].

The Mission of Our Generation

The above enables us to derive a unique lesson regarding the Divine service required in our generation, for the first name of its leader, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, was Yosef.

ח

וּמִזֶּה יֵשׁ לִלְמוֹד הוֹרָאָה מְיֻחֶדֶת לְדוֹרֵנוּ זֶה – שֶׁנְּשִׂיא הַדּוֹר, כְּבוֹד קְדֻשַּׁת מוֹרִי וְחָמִי אַדְמוּ”ר, שְׁמוֹ (הָרִאשׁוֹן) “יוֹסֵף”:

My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, the Yosef of our generation, opened and paved the way for his students and his shluchim who follow his path – and via them, for the entire Jewish people – to be able to occupy themselves with spreading Torah and Judaism and disseminating the wellsprings of Chassidus in all places and under all circumstances, reaching even “Egypt,” i.e., the remotest spiritual peripheries.73

כְּבוֹד קְדֻשַּׁת מוֹרִי וְחָמִי אַדְמוּ"ר – "יוֹסֵף" שֶׁבְּדוֹרֵנוּ – פָּתַח וְסָלַל אֶת הַדֶּרֶךְ לְכָל תַּלְמִידָיו וּשְׁלוּחָיו הַהוֹלְכִים בִּדְרָכָיו וְעַל יְדֵיהֶם בְּכָל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ לַעֲסוֹק בַּהֲפָצַת הַתּוֹרָה וְהַיַּהֲדוּת, וַהֲפָצַת מַעְיְנוֹת הַחֲסִידוּת, בְּכָל מָקוֹם וּמַצָּב, גַּם בְּ"מִצְרַיִם", חוּצָה שֶׁאֵין חוּצָה הֵימֶנּוּ,

Moreover, these efforts – even when carried out in “Egypt” – will not detract from their attachment to G‑d. On the contrary, they will have an influence on the entire land of “Egypt,” “compeling all the inhabitants of the world to accept the Commandments given to Noach and his descendants… because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moshe, our teacher,” as Rambam explicitly rules.74

וּבְאֹפֶן, שֶׁלֹּא זוֹ בִּלְבָד שֶׁהֱיוֹתָם בִּמְקוֹם הַ"חוּצָה" (מִצְרַיִם) לֹא יִגְרַע מִדְּבֵקוּתָם בַּה', אֶלָּא אַדְּרַבָּה – שֶׁפּוֹעֲלִים וּמַשְׁפִּיעִים בְּכָל "אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם", "לָכֹף אֶת כָּל בָּאֵי הָעוֹלָם לְקַבֵּל מִצְווֹת שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ בְּנֵי נֹחַ . . מִפְּנֵי שֶׁצִּוָּה בָּהֶן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בַּתּוֹרָה וְהוֹדִיעָנוּ עַל יְדֵי מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ" (כִּפְסַק דִּין בָּרוּר שֶׁל הָרַמְבַּ"ם143).

True, at times, it may initially appear that one’s mission is directed by Elokim i.e., it involves judgment and the concealment of G‑dliness. In particular, this applies when the concealment could lead to pain and inner anguish. Nevertheless, Yosef conveys the strength to reveal G‑dliness in whatever place a Jew’s mission leads. Indeed, the descent enables him to ascend to an even loftier rung,67 fulfilling the prayer, “May G‑d increase for me another son,”75 reaching peaks incomparably higher than one’s expectations.72

וְאַף אִם לִפְעָמִים נִרְאֶה בַּתְּחִלָּה שֶׁזּוֹהִי שְׁלִיחוּת שֶׁל "אֱלֹקִים" – בְּאֹפֶן שֶׁל דִּין וְהֶעְלֵם וְהֶסְתֵּר, וּבִפְרָט אִם יֶשְׁנָם הַעְלָמוֹת וְהֶסְתֵּרִים כו' הַיְכוֹלִים לִגְרוֹם לְצַעַר וְעָגְמַת נֶפֶשׁ כו', הֲרֵי עַל יְדֵי "יוֹסֵף" מְקַבְּלִים הַכֹּחַ, לְגַלּוֹת אֱלֹקוּת גַּם בִּמְקוֹם הַשְּׁלִיחוּת, וְעוֹד – לְהַגִּיעַ (עַל יְדֵי יְרִידָה זוֹ) לְעִלּוּי גָּדוֹל בְּיוֹתֵר144, "יוֹסֵף ה' לִי בֵּן אַחֵר", עַד לַעֲלִיָּה וְהוֹסָפָה שֶׁבְּאֵין עֲרוֹךְ.

By increasing the energy and intensity in the efforts promoted by Yosef – spreading Torah, Judaism, and the wellsprings of Chassidus outward, reaching even the most extreme peripheries – we hasten and draw closer the complete and ultimate Redemption led by Mashiach. At that time, he will build the Beis HaMikdash in its place, gather the dispersed remnant of the Jewish people, and improve the entire world to serve G‑d together.76 May this take place speedily, in our days.

וְעַל יְדֵי שֶׁמּוֹסִיפִים בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז בַּעֲבוֹדָתוֹ שֶׁל “יוֹסֵף” – הֲפָצַת הַתּוֹרָה וְהַיַּהֲדוּת וְהַמַּעְיָנוֹת חוּצָה, עַד לְחוּצָה שֶׁאֵין חוּצָה הֵימֶנּוּ, מְקָרְבִים וּמְזָרְזִים גְּאֻלָּה הָאֲמִתִּית וְהַשְּׁלֵמָה עַל יְדֵי מָשִׁיחַ צִדְקֵנוּ, שֶׁיִּבְנֶה מִקְדָּשׁ בִּמְקוֹמוֹ וִיקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וִיתַקֵּן אֶת הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ לַעֲבוֹד אֶת ה’ בְּיַחַד145, וּבִמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ מַמָּשׁ.

Likkutei Sichos, Volume 30, P. 222ff. (Adapted from a sichah delivered on 5 Teves, 5747 [1986])

(משיחת יום ג׳, ה׳ טבת, תשמ״ז)