Parashas Vayiggash

This week’s parashah begins with the showdown between Yosef, as Viceroy of Egypt, and Yehudah, as representative of his brothers, followed by Yosef’s revealing his identity. The Midrash expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 93:2):
And Yehudah approached him (Bereishis 44:18, the opening of this week’s parashah). It is written (Tehillim 48:5): “For, behold, the kings assembled, they came together (עברו יחדיו).” For, behold, the kings – Yehudah and Yosef. Came together (עברו יחדיו). This one was filled with wrath (עברה) at this one, and this one was filled with wrath at this one. They saw and they were indeed astonished (ibid. 48:6). As it is written (Bereishis 43:33): “And the men looked at each other in astonishment.” They were confounded and anxious (continuing in Tehillim 48:6). As it is written (Bereishis 45:3): “But his brothers could not answer him, for they were confounded before him.” Trembling gripped them there (Tehillim 48:7) – this refers to the brothers. They said: “Kings are contending with one another – what concern is it of ours? It is fitting for a king to contend with a king.”
Later on in the same section of Midrash, the Sages expound further (Bereishis Rabbah 93:5):
It is written (Amos 9:13): “‘For days are coming,’ says Hashem, ‘that the plowman will meet up with the reaper, and the one treading the grapes with the one drawing along the seed; the mountains will drip juice, and all the hills will melt.’” The “plowman” is Yehudah, and the “reaper” is Yosef. As it is written (Bereishis 37:7): “And, behold, we were binding sheaves.” The “one treading (דורך) the grapes” is Yehudah. As it is written (Zechariah 9:13): “For I will bend (דרכתי) Yehudah [as a bow] for Me.” And the “one drawing along the seed)” is Yosef, who drew Yaakov’s progeny down to Egypt. As it is written (Hoshea 11:4): “With ropes of man I will draw them.” And the “mountains will drip juice, and all the hills will melt” refers to the brothers. They said: “Kings are contending with one another – what concern is it of ours?”
In his commentary on haftaras Vayiggash, the Maggid explains these Midrashim. When the Sages depict Yehudah and Yosef as kings wrathfully contending with each other, they are referring to the kingdoms of Yehudah and Yisrael in the times of the first Beis HaMikdash [the kingdom of Yisrael was formed by Yeravam ben Nevat, a descendant of Yosef’s son Ephraim], and the conflicts and warring that occurred between these two kingdoms. It was like an unwitting prophetic message when the brothers said: “Kings are contending with one another – what concern is it of ours?” The message here was that the confrontation between Yosef and Yehudah described in our parashah was not over an issue that related to them personally at the time, but rather it was in the nature of the rulers of two kingdoms battling each other.
This is the point that the second Midrash, expounding on Amos 9:13, aims to bring out. In general, regarding any process of development, the first step is referred to as plowing or sowing, and the last step is referred to as reaping. In this vein, in Tehillim 126:5 it is written: “Those who sowed with tears will reap with joyous song.” Now, we know that the root of all the blessings that Hashem has granted us is the exile in Egypt, which prepared us for receiving the Torah and inheriting Eretz Yisrael. As it is written (Yeshayah 27:6): “[Days] are coming when Yaakov shall take root; Yisrael shall bud and blossom.” In the verse from Amos, Hashem begins by saying: “Days are coming that the plowman will meet up with the reaper.” This segment of Hashem’s statement refers to the process of bringing Yaakov’s family to Egypt. Yehudah is called the plowman, for he was the one who brought about Yosef’s descent to Egypt, while Yosef is called the reaper, for he finished the job by arranging for his father and brothers to settle in Egypt. Hashem then continues and says: “The one treading the grapes will meet up with the one drawing along the seed.” This segment of Hashem’s statement refers to the process leading to the final redemption. Here, Yehudah is referred to as the one treading the grapes, for he was the one who induced Yosef to reveal his identity, thereby bringing about the reconciliation between Yosef and his brothers. This reconciliation is the precursor of the reconciliation between the Kingdom of Yisrael and the Kingdom of Yehudah that will take place in the end of days, when the sovereignty of the House of David will be firmly re-established.
The Torah recounts (Bereishis 45:1-2): “And Yosef could not hold himself back … and he broke out in loud crying.” The Midrash expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 93:12): “Just as Yosef was able to appease his brothers only through crying, so, too, it will be only though crying that the Holy One Blessed Be He will redeem Yisrael, as it is written (Yirmiyah 31:8): ‘With crying they will come, and with pleading I will lead them.’” This Midrash is in line with what we explained above. The episode of Yosef and his brothers was the precursor of the future split of the Davidic kingdom into two separate kingdoms, the Kingdom of Yisrael and the Kingdom of Yehudah. And the reconciliation between Yosef and brothers, triggered by Yosef’s revealing himself to his brothers amidst loud crying, was the precursor of the final re-unification of the Jewish People. The experiences the forefathers went through serve as portents and lay the foundation for the Jewish People’s experiences throughout the course of history, up to the end of days. Just as the reconciliation between Yosef and brothers came about through crying, so, too the final redemption and reconciliation between the Kingdom of Yisrael and the Kingdom of Yehudah will come about through crying.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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