By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
In Parshas Vayigash, we read of the emotional climax of Yosef’s revelation to his brothers. Yehudah’s desperate plea prompted Yosef to drop his disguise and finally divulge his true identity. Before their shocked eyes, the powerful viceroy of Egypt was revealed as their long lost brother.
With tears in his eyes, Yosef told them not to fear retribution for selling him, for his odyssey as a slave turned out to be part of a Divine plan. He asked them to hurry back to Yaakov Avinu and inform him that Yosef is alive and reigning as a viceroy in Egypt.
Yosef admonished them, “Al tirgezu baderech – Do not tarry along the way.” Further on, the posuk relates that when Yaakov saw the agalos, wagons, that Yosef sent to transport him to Mitzrayim, his spirit was revived.
Why was he revived? The wagons were sent to take him away from Eretz Yisroel and into golus. Yaakov should have been upset that he was about to be leaving the Promised Land. Indeed, he was. It was only the assurance from Hakodosh Boruch Hu, Who appeared to Yaakov and told him not to fear going down to Mitzrayim – “for I will be going down with you and will bring you back” – that allayed his distress.
The Medrash quoted by Rashi explains that the agalos bore Yosef’s hidden message to his father that he still remembered the sugyah of eglah arufah that they had studied together. But why send that message via wagons? Why not send it directly through a brother?
Perhaps his action also contains an eternal hidden message. Yosef knew that the prospect of going into golus would be difficult for Yaakov and the shevatim. The word tirgezu has at its root the word rogez, which means anger. Thus, when he said, “Al tirgezu baderech,” his message was, “Don’t become angry on the journey back home,” referring also to the future golus. He was saying that although the path through golus will be long and painful, do not get angry. Remember that Hashem has sent you there as part of a Divine plan. Despite the hardships and sorrows, cling to the path of Torah until your redemption.
The agalos communicated an important guarantee: that the trip through exile would be bearable if the Jewish people bear aloft the Torah’s pristine message as transmitted by our leaders. If we carry the sugyos of Shas with us; if the images of our teachers and their lessons remain etched in our hearts; if we never lose sight of our ultimate goal and destination, we will succeed. The precepts of the Torah must remain uppermost in our minds and in everything that we do.
Yaakov was upset that he was forced once again to leave the home of his fathers. He knew that he was going down the path of exile, which would only end with the arrival of Moshiach. Yet, when he saw that despite all Yosef had endured in his own private golus, he had kept alive in his heart the sugyos they had studied together, “Vatechi ruach Yaakov avihem,” Yaakov’s spirit was revitalized. From this he drew comfort and reassurance that the Jews would persevere in the long and bitter exile.
Even after the Chanukah menorahs are put away, their flames ought to flicker in our psyches. The battle that Chanukah commemorates resurges in every age, including our own. The battle will never be totally won until Moshiach ben Dovid reveals himself.
We became comfortable in golus and forgot the message of the agalos; we lost sight of our mission and our goal. We forget that the path we walk on in exile is dangerous and treacherous, requiring constant vigilance.
We lose track of the course laid for us in the exile by our rabbeim and we let ourselves be compromised by evil people in many different guises. Our senses become dulled by the lure of money, kavod and power. Those who should know better become ensnared with impropriety once they set foot on the compromise’s slippery slope.
Our rabbeim taught us not to cross the lines of demarcation, and never to blur those lines. Yet we fall prey at times to the spirit of pragmatic thinking which defines our society, and before we know it, we’re up to our necks in muddy waters. We let ourselves be bribed by petty considerations, which blind us to the truth. We like to believe we’re guided by noble motives such as ahavas Yisroel and concern for struggling mosdos haTorah, but in fact we have allowed our judgment to be contaminated by self-serving rationales, forfeiting us of a clear vision.
Believing that we will escape any repercussions and that the truth will never emerge, we cavort with the corrupt and permit them to enjoy misbegotten power. Before we know it, we’ve allowed ourselves to become dependent on them. One step follows the other as we become compromised and complicit, patronizing and enabling perfidious behavior.
The Gemara in Maseches Sotah (22b) warns us to be wary of charlatans who portray themselves as righteous people. In secret they behave as Zimri while they seek to be honored and revered as Pinchos.
Zimri, dominated by a raging drive to sin, surrendered to his base desires and to the egging on of the masses. Openly and brazenly, he committed a cardinal sin. Upon witnessing his debased behavior, Pinchos rose heroically to the call of the hour. Shunning all personal considerations, ignoring the insults heaped upon him, he earned himself eternal gratitude by avenging Hashem’s anger, and elicited forgiveness for the Bnei Yisroel‘s sins.
Due to the darkness of the exile, we confuse the ideal of Pinchos with the entreaties of Midyan’s descendants. We pollute the light of Torah by not ensuring the purity of the oil that nurtures our spiritual endeavors.
As our vision becomes distorted, we lose the message of Chanukah and its lights; we neglect to consider that the Chashmonaim merited Divine assistance precisely because they didn’t succumb to the whims of the day. They defied the rampant capitulation to the dominant Hellenist culture.
Though they could have used any oil to light the menorah, they chose to wait until they could light the menorah and consecrate the Bais Hamikdosh with oil which was unquestionably pure. Hashem in turn caused them to find a crucible of pure oil, which Medrashim say Yaakov Avinu had prepared for use in the Bais Hamikdosh.
The Chashmonaim thus sanctified Hashem’s name bechadrei chadorim, when no one would have known if they had compromised on the holiness of the Temple. Thus, they earned the eternal and much publicized reverence of the Jewish people for their heroic actions.
Those who had succumbed to fashionable trends and blurred the lines of demarcation no doubt suggested that the menorah should be kindled with defiled oil, which was technically permissible according to the rule of tumah hutrah betzibbur. Though they may have been well-intentioned, they and their memories are long forgotten.
Following the path charted for us by our rabbeim is often quite lonely and even depressing. The temptation to throw in the towel and join those who make compromises is often overwhelming. We don’t have anyone sending us agalos to lift our spirits for the journey through the exile.
In order to ensure the transmission of the pach shemen tahor, required for the flame of Torah to remain kindled in golus, we must absorb the lesson Yosef taught with the wagons. This means ensuring that the image of the flames of the Chanukah menorah continue to burn brightly within us. We will remember that victory belongs not to those who boast of wealth, status or power, but to those who battle for what is right and true.
The Mishkan was built with wood from cedar trees that Yaakov Avinu brought with him into exile on the agalos that Yosef sent him. The Bais Hamikdosh was reconsecrated with the pure oil Yaakov had prepared.
Much the same as Yosef revealed himself to his brothers in this week’s parsha, Moshiach ben Yosef will reveal himself to the Jewish people as the End of Days approaches, heralding the messianic age.
Chazal teach that in every generation there lives a man who is eligible to be Moshiach who will redeem us from exile, if we are worthy. That holds true in our day as well.
If we follow the path of Yosef Hatzaddik in resisting temptation; if we keep alive the image of Yaakov Avinu who prepared the wood for the Mishkan and the pach shemen tahor for the Chashmonaim, we will hasten Moshiach ben Yosef’s long-awaited announcement that the end of pain and suffering has arrived.
As a young bochur in the Philadelphia Yeshiva, I heard a shmuess from Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l. He told of a bochur who related that he had once seen Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt”l. The bochur would often say that “whenever he wanted to do any monkey business,” he would think of the image of Rav Boruch Ber and that would prevent him from engaging in the dubious behavior.
Those reading this article most likely never merited seeing Rav Boruch Ber. But we all have rabbeim who nurtured us and set us out on a strong path in life. We all have – or should have – people who counsel and direct us. As one who received guidance from Maranan Rav Elazar Shach zt”l and Rav Elya Svei zt”l, I often find myself contemplating their illustrious images in my mind. No doubt many people share this experience. We wonder what they would say and what advice they would have given us.
Indeed, as the news of the day unfolds, we wonder what they would say if they were with us today. And we shudder.
They would certainly tell us that just as in the days of the Yevanim, those who battled for the inviolate purity of Torah were rewarded with witnessing the consecration of the Bais Hamikdosh, so too will it be in our day. They would beg us to resist temptation and remind us that those who remain uncorrupted will earn the sechar of Yosef, Pinchos and the Chashmonaim.
We wait for that to transpire, speedily and in our day.
Rabbi Lipschutz is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Yated Ne’eman.