Parashat Vayigash (And he approached) Genesis 44:18-47:27
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28
In this week’s Torah portion Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. No sooner than Joseph does this that he inquires concerning his father, Jacob. After learning that Jacob was indeed alive, he commanded his brothers twice, to return to the Land of Israel and bring Jacob to Egypt. The text is most emphatic and states this with a great sense of urgency.
“Hurry, go up to my father and you shall say to him, ‘Thus said your son Joseph, G-d placed me for a master / judge for all of Egypt, come down to me, do not delay.”
“And you shall declare to my father all my glory in Egypt and all which you have seen and you shall hurry and bring down my father here.” Genesis 45:13
Most understand Joseph’s statements as simply referring to his desire to provide for his father during the next five years of famine and hardship. This however is not the primary reason. There is something much more significant related to this issue. Joseph could have provided for his father and brothers simply by sending food to them. This is why the brothers came to Egypt originally; to buy food and then return to Israel. The reason why the text places an emphasis on Jacob, i.e. Israel coming to Egypt is to teach an important spiritual principle.
The Exodus out of Egypt is understood by the Scripture as relating to redemption in a unique manner. All of Israel came down to Egypt in order to experience redemption, albeit a physical redemption. The Exodus from Egypt, i.e. Passover, lays a foundation for understanding the spiritual redemption which Messiah Yeshua brought about, also on the same day of the Jewish calendar, the 14th of Nissan. In the same way that there was a need for a physical redemption for Israel in order to inherit the Land and initiate a kingdom, so too there is an absolute need for one to experience spiritual redemption and thereby enter into the Kingdom of G-d.
In a similar manner, Abraham is told about inheriting the Land only after HaShem states that it was He (G-d) Who brought out Abraham from the land of Ur Kasdim. The Hebrew word “to bring out” is often used in a special context relating to redemption. Hence, Abraham being brought out of Ur Kasdim hints to the Exodus.
In returning to the Parashah, it is interesting that one reads,
“And I will sustain you there, for (there will be) five more years of famine, lest you become destitute, you and your house and all which is yours.” Genesis 45:11
The reader must pay close attention to the phrase, “lest you become destitute“. Most would probably be very surprised to learn that it is the same word which usually means “to inherit”. How could the same word mean “to become destitute” and “to inherit”? The most common answer to this question is, when the word appears in a certain Hebrew verbal stem (niphal) it means “to become destitute”, while in other stems it carries the meaning “to inherit”. Although this answer is grammatically correct, it fails to explain the deeper significance.
The point here is that in both cases there is the idea of “receiving” or “inheriting”. The issue is what is one going to receive? Will he inherit what he deserves or will he inherit the goodness of G-d? It is only by means of redemption that one can inherit the promises of G-d. When one is without redemption, he will inherit what the rest of the world receives, and not the good promises of G-d.
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