Friday, December 30, 2011

Parashat Vayigash: "The Jewish Task in Galut"

Yeshiva in Bnei Brak

Photo: Miriam Woelke


This week's Torah reading is Parashat Vayigash. Yehudah approaches Yosef (Vayigash elav Yehudah). Yehudah is the only one of the brothers confronting Yosef and making a point. 

Chassidic commentaries ask the question why the Torah doesn't make it clear that Yehudah is really approaching Yosef, as it only says that he approaches HIM. Who is HIM ? When you read a bit further you know that it is Yosef he approaches. However, there are commentaries, e.g. the Sefat Emet or Rabbi Elimelech of Lejansk, stating that Yehudah is also getting closer to G - d. He is trying to protect his brother Benjamin and puts the material world aside. Yehudah uses his emotions without loosing any tact towards the Egyptian viceroy Yosef. Just like a Zaddik (righteous person) should stand before G - d.

In Parashat Vayigash we see how the Jews (then Yaakov's family) is slowly moving into Galut (Diaspora). G - d has a special plan and Jewish literature is providing answers why we have to live outside Israel. The Jewish Kabbalah teaches us about sparks (Nitzozot), the fallen sparks during the creation process. G - d's plan was to give mankind free will and thus He had to withdraw during the creation process in order not to create an entirely perfect world. If G - d had created a perfect world, we could not have any free will but behave in a perfect sense. However, our task as Jews is to perfect this world by doing Mitzvot, pray, giving Zedakah, etc. 

The so - called sparks can be found all over the world. Nevertheless, don't take this concept literally and start digging out fallen sparks.:-) This is simply a symbolic kabbalistic concept developed by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the ARIZAL) ! What the concept means is that we have to elevate those sparks in order to perfect the world. For instance, by saying a blessing over food. After elevating everything, Meshiach will come. However, the Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin lists us further varieties how Meshiach is going to come. 

What fascinates me about this Parasha is Yehudah speaking up and Jews being send to Galut. I like people standing up for their rights and ideas. As someone growing up in the Diaspora I know what it means living outside Israel. American Jewry as well as the English may have a much more convenient Diaspora life, as I had in Germany. Although Chabad has become a large institution in Germany, it is still hard finding kosher food. Finding the right Synagogue, as there are too many Reform communities. And even if you are part of an Orthodox community, one needs to go according to their German rules and doesn't have a choice by looking for another community. 

I do not envy Yosef and the rest of his family moving down to Egypt. They already knew that living in Israel (then Canaan) is not that easy but from my point of view it is worth living here. But this was G - d's plan and one of the reasosn why the Jews had to move there was the task of picking up sparks. Elevating the negative into something positive. Commentators tell us that there aren't any sparks left in Egypt, as Moshe and the Israelites had collected them all. 

1 comment:

  1. B'H

    And you can add to this that G-d had promised Avraham that his descendants will left Egypt with money, gold, etc. We know that receiving money from impure sources is spiritually dangerous (look at the X-tian money so many Jews do accept). So, G-d had to send Yosef into Egypt first, so that when he would become the viceroy of Egypt, he would purify all that money and belongings with which the Jews would leave Egypt after the end of their golus. So we see that even what seemed bad (Yosef sold into slavery, etc.), was indeed for a hidden good: prufiying all the Egyptian money that would belong to the Jews at the end of their Golus.