VaYigash (5780)

Drash Cards for VaYigash (5780)

by Marc Mangel

• This is the third of a three part drash on how each of us can be the conduit for the Abrahamic idea (Toldot)/discovery (VaYeishev)/message (VaYigash) that there is one God who created all of us, but who can be worshipped in different ways. We must seek the Godliness in everyone, no matter how different they appear to be.

• In Toldot, we discussed how Sarah and Rivka were greater prophets than Abraham and Isaac because they saw that the Abrahamic message was to be continued through one son –in both cases the younger sons.

• In VaYeishev, we discussed how Jacob is the last of the Patriarchs, after which the Abrahamic message is transmitted by the 12 tribes descended from Jacob.  We are links in this perpetual chain.

• In his book Torah Ohr,  Rabbi Schneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chassidism, wrote  “ Knesset Israel, the source of Jewish souls, is called Menorah, and [like the Menorah] it is a “hammered bloc,” for all Jews are essentially one, and then branch out”. The seven branches of the menorah is a metaphor – there are clearly more than seven ways to serve God.   

• Previously, we recognized two puzzles:  First,  the 12 tribes are 10 sons and two grandsons. We do not have a tribe called Joseph – rather Menashe and Ephraim. Second, if Joseph was the holiest of all the brothers why are we named after Judah (Jews) instead of Joseph?

• In Miketz (next week), we will read (Ch 48, v13ff)  that Joseph brought Ephraim and Manasseh close to Jacob, who said “May God who has been my shepherd from my earliest days until this day and sent the angel who delivers me from all harm, bless the lads. May they bear my name, together with the names of my father Abraham and Isaac”… he blessed them and said ‘With your names shall the Israelites invoke God’s blessings on their son, saying to them ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh”. We continue do this blessing every Shabbat.

• We have no tribe of Joseph because Jacob took Ephraim and Manasseh as his sons.  Why?  There are two reasons, I think. Much as with Esau, Jacob may have feared residual hatred and resentment to Joseph from the other brothers, so making the grandsons into two of the tribes diffused those emotions.  Second, Ephraim and Manasseh are the first two brothers in the Bible who did not fight – so Jacob has set them up as role models for all of his descendants. First puzzle solved.

• To understand why we are called after Judah, we need to get to the subplot of VaYigash and to the notion of what’s in a name.

• The main plot is the reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers and the reunion of Joseph with his father.  The equally significant subplot is the spiritual conflict between Joseph and his brothers, exemplified by Judah.

• The conflict centers around whose approach would more effectively spread the Abrahamic message.  Joseph favored engaging in the world proactively, utilizing its institutions, culture, technology, and emotional energy for holy purposes.  Judah and the brothers preferred to shun the world and its enticements and pitfalls, to devote themselves to augmenting their own holiness, hoping inspiring the world to emulate them.

• According to the Rebbe’s chumash we should seek the synthesize Judah’s selflessness and Joseph’s social prowess.

• Now we need to get into names.

  • When Leah gives birth to her 4th son, in parsha VaYeitzei we read (Ch 29, v35) “She [Leah] said ‘This time I thank [odeh] God’ and she therefore named him Judah (Yehuda)”.  When Rachel gives birth to her first son, Ch 30, v 24: “She named him Joseph [‘May he add’] saying “May God add [Yosef] another son for me”. 

• Joseph is named for wanting more; Yehuda is named for gratitude. 

• Next, a riff on Jay’s demonstration from last week. The Arizal (R. Isaac Luria)  noted the following. Start with Yehuda

Remove the daled

And see that the name of God is in Yehuda.

[• After I gave the drash, Tammi Benjamin pointed out that daled also represents the number 4.  This can be interpreted as the physical world, consisting of 3 spatial and 1 time dimension.  Thus, the name Yehuda encompasses both the name of God and the physical world. We are the only beings who live both in the physical and spiritual worlds.]

• We begin our day saying

The first sentence is: I give thanks to you, living and eternal King, for you have returned my soul to me. Like Leah, we have gratitude.

• The second, two word sentence is “Your faith is enormous”.  God’s faith in our ability to make the world better is enormous.

• Every time you say “I am Jewish” you are affirming that you are grateful, that God is within you, and that God has great faith in you to make the world better. That is why we are called Jews and not Joes.

• It is in this sense that Jews are a chosen people – chosen to deliver the Abrahamic message, for which everyone one of us can be a conduit. Whether we are born into a Jewish home or come to Judaism later in life – we must choose to take on being the conduit, through our prayer, study, and behavior.

• Shabbat shalom and thank you for giving me the opportunity to drash and learn with you over the last 23.5 years.