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Words of Torah  

Parshat Vayigash
Rabbi Chaim Szmidt
Lecturer on the Philosophy of Liturgy

Ahavat Achim Ahavat Yisrael (part 2)

Vayomer Yosef el achiv ani Yosef, ha'od avi chai? - And Yosef said to his brothers: I am Yosef is my father still alive? (Breshit 45:3)." The Medrash in Breshit Rabbah relates that Abba Bar  Delah, the priest, said: "woe to us because of the day of Judgement and woe to us because of the day of the rebuke. If the brothers of Joseph could not withstand the rebuke of the youngest in their family, what will become of us when the Lord will rebuke each of us according to his character?" R. Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik of Brisk, a grandson of R. Chaim of Volozhin, remarks in his Bet HaLevi as follows: We are told that the brothers became greatly frightened when Yosef made himself known to them, How could the words of Yosef be thought of as a rebuke?

Actually the Hebrew term tochacha - rebuke implies the act of convincing or persuading by causing the one rebuked to realize on his own that he had done wrong. That is precisely what Yosef did by his revelation. By very subtly recalling to them the words they themselves had just spoken regarding Binyamin, he reproved them for what they had done to him. How? Yehuda had tried to awaken compassion in Yosef for his old father, pleading that the old man would die of grief if Benyamin would not return. Yosef, with his words, was in effect reminding them that the same feelings were not present in their hearts when they sold him into slavery, yet he never directly rebuked them... their own words and his revelation did!

Most of us would have succumbed to the overwhelming temptation of berating those who sold us into slavery, thereby causing them to still feel hatred, deep within their hearts in spite of declarations to the contrary! Yosef, not only wanted to spare his brothers the shame, but also wanted to bring about a loving resolution to the conflict and his words of tochacha accomplished that. 

From this parsha we learn how far ahavat achim and ahavat Yisrael must go. Not only does Yosef resists the temptation to berate his brothers for their deeds against him, but as the parsha continues: "Vayipol al tzavorey Binyamin achiv vayeivch, u'Binyamin bacha al tzavarav - And he (Yosef) fell on the neck of Binyamin, his brother, and cried. And Binyamin cried on his neck. (Breshit 45:14)." Why were these tears on each others' necks not tears of joy? Why should they have been tears of pain, were they not both sons of the same mother who were finally reunited?

They each cried disconsolately because they foresaw the destruction of the two Batey Mikdash, both of which were on Binyamin's land. Although that would be enough to explain the tears, Binyamin cried because he foresaw the destruction of the mishkan on land which fell to the patrimony of the tribes of Yosef. The greatest simcha was overshadowed by the devastation to come, and although the Temples would not have come about had not the mishkan ceased to be, Binyamin cried at the pain caused to his brother's descendants. Yosef cried not for the pain of his children but the pain of all the Bnei Yisrael, especially his brother's descendants. Although all the calamities they foresaw would happen a long, long time from then, Though they themselves would never be direct witnesses to the tragedies to come, they cried because they saw and felt the tears of every one of their descendants... That is the degree of ahavat achim and ahavat Yisrael  that all of us must try to emulate and thereby bring Moschiach tzidkenu bimheira vyomenu.

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