Parashas Vayiggash

In this week’s parashah, Yosef reveals himself to his brothers. He then says to them (Bereishis 45:4-7):
I am Yosef your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. And now, do not be upset or angry with yourselves that you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to be a provider. For now for two years there has been famine in the land, and there are yet five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival on the earth and to sustain you for a great deliverance.
The Maggid notes that this statement is repetitive: Yosef tells his brothers twice, almost consecutively, that Hashem sent him ahead of them to sustain them. He then sets out to explain the import of this repetitive language.
The Maggid builds on the following Gemara (Shabbos 30a):
What is meant by the verse (Tehillim 86:17): “Perform with me a sign for good, so that my enemies will see it and be ashamed”? Said David to Hashem: “Master of the Universe! Pardon me for that sin [with Bas-Sheva].” Hashem replied: “You are pardoned.” David said: “Perform with me a sign in my lifetime.” Hashem replied: “In your lifetime I will not publicize it, but in the lifetime of your son Shlomo I will publicize it.” When Shlomo built the Holy Temple, he sought to bring the ark into the Holy of Holies, but the gates clung to each other. Shlomo made twenty-four pleas, but he was not answered. He then went forward and exclaimed (Tehillim 24:7): “Raise up your head, O gates, and be lifted up, O everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may enter.” … Yet he was not answered. But when he said (Divrei HaYamim Beis 6:42): “Hashem, God, do not turn away Your anointed one, remember the good deeds of your servant David,” he was answered immediately. At that moment, the faces of all of David’s enemies turned black like the bottom of a pot, and the entire Nation of Yisrael then knew that Hashem had pardoned him for that sin. Did not Shlomo thus speak well when he said (Koheles 4:2): “I esteem the dead who have already died more than the living who are still alive”?
The Maggid analyzes this Gemara as follows. Consider a garment that has been torn. An accomplished tailor may fix the tear in a way that makes the repair unnoticeable, but nonetheless the garment will not have the same value as it did before the tear. It is the same with any other item that is damaged and then repaired. Certainly the item will not be worth more after the repair than before. Similarly, when a person sins and then properly repents, Hashem will pardon him and erase all trace of the sin, but still it would have been better if the person had not sinned in the first place. If so, what shame would David’s enemies feel when the saw that Hashem pardoned his sin? Yet from the Gemara above we see that, in fact, David became much more eminent after the pardon than he was before he had sinned. Why?
The Maggid explains what happened with David through a parable. A nobleman had a very valuable sapphire which suffered glaring damage. He consulted expert gem-cutters and asked if the stone could be fixed, and was told that even after repair some trace of the damage would remain. Later, a very accomplished expert gem-cutter came to him and said: “Let me give you some advice. Your gem, even as it is now, is very valuable. But it would be even more valuable if I adorned it with beautiful engravings. If you allow me, I will do so, and I will start my work with this very scratch – from there the engraving line will begin.” In this case, we definitely would say that the flaw introduced into the stone was the cause of its becoming much more valuable than it was before it was damaged.
Thus it was with David. The Gemara says (Avodah Zarah 4b-5a):
David was not of the sort to do that act [the liaison with Bas-Sheva], and the Jewish People were not of the sort to do that act [the making of the golden calf]. … So why did they do these acts? [The Gemara explains that they did so in order to provide examples that both an individual and a community can repent and gain pardon.] This is as was taught by R. Shmuel bar Nachmani in the name of R. Yochanan: “What is the meaning of the verse (Shmuel Beis 23:1): ‘The words of David the son of Yishai, and the words of the man raised on high (על).’? [It means:] The words of David the son of Yishai, who raised up the yoke (עול) of repentance.”
This being the case, it is not really fitting to consider David guilty of a sin. Thus the Gemara says elsewhere (Shabbos 56a): “Whoever says David sinned is simply mistaken. For it is written (Shmuel Alef 18:14): ‘And David was successful in all his ways, and Hashem was with him.’” That is, Hashem orchestrated the liaison, for the reason the Gemara in Avodah Zarah gives. As a result, David’s eminence after he repented was much greater than before the liaison, for through his repentance he paved for others the path of repentance, and thus brought about incalculable benefit.
We can now understand David’s plea: “Perform with me a sign for good, so that my enemies will see it and be ashamed.” Note that David uses the phrasing “perform with me (עשה עמי)” rather than the more natural “perform for me (עשה לי).” David was not only asking Hashem to pardon him for his sin. He was asking Hashem to publicize the good that was brought into the world through what he did – that the world was provided an example showing that an individual can be repent and be pardoned. Hashem replied: “In your lifetime I will not publicize it, but in the lifetime of your son Shlomo I will publicize it.” And when Shlomo prayed to be able to bring the ark into the Holy of Holies, he was answered only when he invoked David’s merit. The people then saw clearly that David’s eminence after his repentance was much greater than it had been before, even exceeding that of other righteous men.
The episode of Yosef and his brothers was along exactly the same lines. The brothers sold Yosef as a slave, an apparently ignoble act. But in actuality, as our Sages teach, the sale was purposely orchestrated by Hashem, in order to bring Yaakov and his family to Egypt. It is to bring out this point that Yosef told his brothers twice that Hashem sent him to Egypt. Yosef first says: “And now, do not be upset or angry with yourselves that you sold me here, for Hashem sent me ahead of you to be a provider.” Given this statement alone, it might be thought that the brothers’ act in itself was an evil deed, but Hashem afterward arranged subsequent developments so that a benefit would result – similar to the case of an item that was damaged and then later repaired by an expert craftsman. Yosef therefore continues: “And God sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival on the earth and to sustain you for a great deliverance.” Yosef was telling his brothers that after the result of his being sold and brought to Egypt had come to light, it was clear that the sale was not really their doing – rather, Hashem had orchestrated it from the outset, to achieve a specific goal.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.