The Shabbat following a special event is the time when we elevate the soul-teachings of the event and integrate them into our lives. It is appropriate that on the Shabbat following "Zot Chanukah", the eighth and last day of Chanukah, we read parashat Vayigash. The last night of Chanukah is when all of the candles are lit - no darkness remains, only light. It is the eighth day, when the transcendent power of "eight" - the power of "higher-than-nature", surpassing even the level of "seven" - the ultimate within the cycle of nature, shines forth. It is the culmination of the holiday, when the ability to take control of our environment and be fully Jewish, rather than being controlled by our surroundings, is absorbed by each of us.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that we can clearly see an example of this in the beginning of Vayigash, when Judah stands up against the viceroy of Egypt, ready to do battle with him and all of the armies of Egypt to save one Jewish child whom he had taken responsibility for. Similarly, parents who have a Jewish child whom they are responsible to raise and educate have to be prepared to even endanger their lives for the sake of their children, in order that they get a proper Jewish education. During Chanukah, each Jew gains an infusion of extra power for prayer…
The Shelah emphasizes that during Chanukah, each Jew gains an infusion of extra power for prayer. This is connected to one of the connotations of the word "Chanukah": "chinuch" or "dedication", referring to the rededication of the Temple after it was taken over and made impure by the Greeks. The daily sacrificial offerings were reestablished on Chanukah. Now, after the destruction of the Temple, our daily prayers are in place of these sacrifices. Therefore, during Chanukah and the days following we have a special connection to prayer.
The Maggid of Mezritch, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov, said that the first verse of Vayigash teaches that when a person prays to ask the Almighty to fill his required physical needs and that of his family, he has to be very careful that his or her main intention is that G‑d should fulfill the request not for the person's sake but rather for G‑d's sake, for the G‑dly part of the person, the G‑dly soul within each of us. Over such a prayer the forces of evil have no power, because the prayer is focused on heaven and therefore will most certainly be received favorably.
This is the meaning of the first verse of the parasha, "And Judah approached him": (Gen. 44:18) When a Jew (in Hebrew, "Yehudi", derived from the name "Judah", in Hebrew, "Yehuda") approaches G‑d in prayer and says, "Please (in Hebrew, "bi"), my master", he should intend that he has within himself (also "bi" in Hebrew) his G‑dly soul, which is part of his Master; it is for its sake, the sake of the soul, that he is praying. Therefore, the outcome will be, "and do not be angry with your servant", (ibid.) meaning that there will be no impediments to the prayers. Sometimes it is necessary to overcome one's natural feelings in order to forgive someone…
The reunion of Joseph and his brothers is described in this week's portion. It says that Joseph kissed all of his brothers and cried over them. The Shelah reminds us of the very important message how a person must forgive others for doing wrong. Sometimes it is necessary to overcome one's natural feelings in order to forgive someone. In this case, it was the brothers that sinned against Joseph , but it was Joseph that kissed and cried over them.
The portion ends with the brothers returning to Israel to bring their father back to Egypt and their settling down in Goshen, a special area set aside for them. While discussing their return, the Torah says that Jacob sent Judah ahead to Goshen. Rashi explains that he did so in order to set up a place to learn Torah - a yeshiva - in advance of their arrival. Jacob wanted Judah to first create a spiritual environment even before they moved…
The Shelah says that the teaching from this is to train ourselves to find a heavenly purpose in each action we do, above and beyond the obvious reason we are doing it. The example he gives is when a person plans to build a new home, he should imagine at the outset which room will be devoted to the spiritual pursuits of prayer, Torah study and meditation. Only afterwards should he worry about his own physical needs. Thus, Jacob wanted Judah to first create a spiritual environment even before they moved to Egypt because of the famine.
There is a further hint about this in the word Goshena, which is one less than the numerical value of the word "l'yeshiva", meaning "to yeshiva". While it is normal in gematria to count the word-unit as 1 to complete a number, nevertheless it can be said that even a yeshiva set up by our forefather Jacob is still missing something if it is outside of Israel, before Mashiach.
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul
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