Questions and Concepts for Parsha Va'yigash
(Genesis 44:18-47:27)

1. In verse 18 we see Judah informing Joseph that he is "like Pharaoh." Though this seems like a great compliment, it is also possible that Judah was giving Joseph a warning. Just as the Pharaoh was punished for taking and detaining Sarah, so might Joseph "be like him" if he kept Benjamin.

2. Why did Joseph not contact his father Jacob prior to this time? Being both "righteous" and in a position of great power (in charge of Egypt's economy), why did he delay? The answer is found in the Oral Torah which says that the brothers had bound themselves and God with an oath against revealing to Jacob that Joseph was alive. However, why would God allow Himself to be "bound" by such an oath? Because if Jacob were to hear that Joseph was a slave in Egypt, he would certainly have gone there to redeem him. This would have prevented the ensuing captivity in Egypt from occuring - something God Himself foretold to Abraham:

Genesis 15:13 - Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

3. An additional aspect to this scenario involves the fulfillment of Joseph's dream of his brothers bowing to him. That which has been determined to occur in the heavenly realm, must take place at some time in the physical. (i.e., The "Lamb slain at the foundation of the world" came into the physical realm within time to die.)

4. The overarching lesson of the parsha and of all that happens to any of us is spoken by Joseph in 45:5:

But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

What had been perceived as "bad" by Joseph, Jacob (and to at least some of his brothers at some point), was all "for the good."

As we are told:

Romans 8:28 - And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Talmud, Megilah 25a - Everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven

5. There is another lessson to be found in 45:8:

So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

The hard lesson in the above verse is that if God chooses you for something, He will have His way whether you are ready, willing and able - or not.

As one modern rabbi has written about this:

Every Jew is an important piece of a puzzle that is incomplete if a piece is missing. No matter how small and seemingly insignificant the piece seems to be to us, we are here to serve the Klal - the totality of the Jewish people - and the only question we are being asked is, "Do you want to do this consciously, or do you want to merely be a pawn in G-d's master plan?"

6. Two things that we are told in the "New Testament" are;

  • Israel did not recognize Yeshua as Messiah ben Joseph due to their being blinded by Satan and their own sin
  • If Israel did accept him, the final redemption would be immediately brought in by God (i.e., Acts chapter 3)

The Hebraic context of these two ideas is found in the 18th century text, Kol Hator ("The Voice of the Turtledove," - the latter term being a name for Messiah as found in Song of Solomon 2:12). This very mystical work was written by Rabbi Hillel Shklover, the grand-nephew and disciple of the famous Gaon of Vilna.

The following is from a section of Kol Hator listing 156 aspects of Messiah ben Joseph:

Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him -- This is one of the traits of Yosef not only in his own generation, but in every generation, i.e., that Mashiach ben Yosef recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him.  This is the work of Satan, who hides the characteristics of Mashiach ben Yosef so that the footsteps of the Mashiach are not recognized and are even belittled because of our many sins. Otherwise, our troubles would already have ended.   Were Israel to recognize Yosef, that is, the footsteps of ben Yosef the Mashiach which is the ingathering of the exiles etc., then we would already have been redeemed with a complete redemption. (Kol Hator, Chapter 2, Aspect #39)

Consider this:
In 45:22 we see Joseph providing 300 silver pieces to Benjamin. As mentioned in the previous parsha, in Hebraic studies Joseph is associated with the aspect of God known as Yesod (Foundation). The God-name associated with Yesod is "Shaddai," which reflects God as provider. The name Shaddai begins with the letter Shin, which is the letter seen on the Mezuzah, the tiny artifact many Jews place by the side of the door of their homes. (The Shin here standing in for the entire name Shaddai.) The numerical value of the letter Shin is 300.