Yehuda HaKohen’s Weekly Torah Thoughts: PARSHAT VAYIGASH

By Yishai - Posted: Friday, December 30, 2011
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“Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt in the region of Goshen; they acquired property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” (BEREISHIT 47:27)

On this verse, the Kli Yakar comments that the Children of Israel no longer regarded themselves as aliens sojourning in Egypt but rather as permanent residents. He further explains that “so completely settled did they become that they did not wish to leave Egypt and HaShem had to remove them by force. Those who did not wish to leave died during the three days of darkness.”

Israel settled in Egypt, established deep roots and enjoyed material success, setting a pattern that would come to define Jewish behavior in later exiles. Nearly every foreign land that we have settled in throughout history was initially a safe refuge, yet Jews have often attempted to turn these places of temporary shelter into permanent dwellings. And in almost every instance, the natural order of history has reacted by shattering our false sense of security on foreign soil and reminding us that we are not yet home in our own country.

“Had the dove found a resting place, it would not have returned. A similar verse is, `She dwells among the nations; she finds no rest’ (EICHA 1:3). If they found rest, they would not return. Similar also is DEVARIM 28:65, `Among the nations you will feel insecure; there will be no place for your foot to rest.’ If they found rest, they would not return.” (Bereishit Rabbah 33:6)

The Gaon of Vilna was agitated by the thought of Jews suffering atrocities due to our remaining in the Diaspora of our own free will at a time when it becomes possible to return to our borders. In the first chapter of Kol HaTor, the Gaon’s teachings on Mashiach ben Yosef and the Redemption process (compiled by his student Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov), there is mention of refugees.

“Refugees in Zion. The fifth principle is that `for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape… and among the remnant, those whom the L-rd will call.’ (YOEL 3:5) Since according to Midrash Tanchuma, Zion is in the line of Mashiach ben Yosef, whatever befell Yosef befell Zion. The Gaon said that this is hinted at also in the word `among the remnant’ which in numerical values equals `Mashiach ben Yosef” (566), by means of whom, according to the Gaon, the ingathering of the exiles will be accomplished. As the number of ingathered increases, so the Sitra Achra (evil forces) will increase its strength. Then another prosecutor will be added, against those who do not strengthen the ingathering of exiles after the beginning of the Redemption has started with the ingathering, for then in `Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape… and among the remnant…’ A word to the wise is sufficient. This distressed the Gaon a great deal.”

The question is often raised why so many otherwise faithful Jews choose to voluntarily live in exile from their homeland if the Torah so clearly dictates the need for the Jewish Nation to reside in Eretz Yisrael? And why do we sometimes even find learned rabbis who go as far as to reject the existence of a Divine commandment to live in our own country? In the fifth chapter of Kol HaTor, the Gaon is quoted as explaining the inner reason why many great scholars do not encourage their followers to actively participate in the Redemption process.

“The Sin of the Spies… hovers over the Nation of Israel in every generation… How strong is the power of the Sitra Achra that it succeeds in hiding from the eyes of our holy fathers the dangers of the klipot; from the eyes of Avraham our father, the klipah of exile… and in the time of the Mashiach, the Sitra Achra attacks the guardians of Torah with blinders… Many of the sinners in this great sin of, `They despised the cherished land,’ and also many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in the Sin of the Spies, that they have been sucked into the Sin of the Spies in many false ideas and empty claims, and they cover their ideas with the already proven fallacy that the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been disproven by the giants of the world, the Rishonim and Achronim.”

Anything that delays the sanctification of G-D’s Name consequentially profanes it. By rejecting the mitzvah to build a Hebrew Nation in Eretz Yisrael and magnify HaShem’s Divine Ideal to mankind, many otherwise righteous individuals have become guilty of decreasing the universal perception of His all encompassing Oneness.

“See – HaShem, your G-D, has placed the land before you; go up and possess, as HaShem, G-D of your forefathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not lose resolve.” (DEVARIM 1:21)

The Ramban clearly explains (Positive Commandment 4 in his supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot) that this mitzvah of conquering and living in the Land of Israel is a commandment for every generation at all times. The Shulchan Aruch states conclusively on this issue (Even HaEzer 75, Pitchei Tshuva 6) that all of the arbitrators of Torah Law (Rishonim and Achronim) follow the opinion of the Ramban.

Because history demands that our exile be eliminated, Jews can no longer reside securely in the Diaspora. By neglecting to willingly return home to their soil, Jews are essentially scorning not only their own people’s national aspirations but also the Torah. And because the condition of Jews living outside our borders is both an unnatural situation and an objective desecration of G-D’s holy Name, one way or another it will come to an end.

What sustains the Jewish Diaspora today is a psychological enslavement largely focused on personal security and individual success. The Maharal of Prague explains in Netzach Yisrael that this mental slavery is hinted at within the Hebrew language. The only difference between the words gola (exile) and Geula (Redemption) is the letter Aleph, which possesses the numerical value of one.

Whoever chooses to remains in the exile, thereby fighting the historic tide of Israel’s Redemption, is only doing so because he lacks the idea of “One” – the complete belief in the unity of Israel and HaShem – in G-D being One and His Name being One over and beyond all that exists. Only by arriving at the awareness of One – the intrinsic unity and collective destiny of Am Yisrael – will Jews be able to break free from our psychological prisons of egoism and accept our roles as parts of the greater Israeli whole. We will be able to perceive HaShem’s unity in history and Creation and will be able to fully devote ourselves to the Zionist revolution currently underway. And once the Hebrew Nation is psychologically free, we can focus on living up to our national mission as a kingdom of priests and holy nation that will shine Divine light to all of mankind.

Shabbat Shalom.

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One Response to “Yehuda HaKohen’s Weekly Torah Thoughts: PARSHAT VAYIGASH”

Comment from Nita
Time February 5, 2012 at 9:13 am

The short aewsnr: Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that women cannot assume any position of authority in Jewish life, based on the Sifrei on the verse – “‘you shall surely appoiint a king’ – a king, and not a queen. All appointments [to positions of leadership] must be men. The more traditional members of JTS – Saul Lieberman and David Halivni Weiss opposed women’s ordination in the 1980′s They wrote their reasons extensively, and I urge you to track them down. There are few responsa in Orthodox life dealing with this issue, because it had never been an issue. There are also a number of functions that the Rabbi performs that cannot be done by a woman. Clearly, there are some that she can perform – pastoral work – which suggests that supporters of this innovation wish to downgrade the position of rabbi generally.Thank you – RSP