Vertluch: Parshas Vayigash


Parshas Vayigash relates the climax to one of the most well known episodes in our illustrious history-the story of Yosef revealing himself to his brothers. After inquiring about the welfare of their father, he tells his brothers to bring Yaakov to Mitzrayim. Finally, after twenty two years, the moment arrives; Yosef harnesses his own chariot and travels to Goshen to meet his beloved father. The pasuk tells us that when he went to Goshen (46; 29) ‘He presented himself to him and he fell on his neck…‘ Rashi comments on this pasuk and says ‘Yosef presented himself to his father.’

Rashi’s explanation needs some elucidation. It seems, upon reading his words, that Rashi is not adding anything to the pasuk. As the Ramban points out that Rashi seems to be repeating what the pasuk has already mentioned. Of course Yosef presented himself to his father as the pasuk itself continues and says, that he ‘fell on his neck’. What chiddush was Rashi adding?

Rav Chaim Shmuelovitz Zt”l, answers as follows:

Let us imagine what Yosef was feeling as he was approaching meeting his father after such a long separation. Yosef hadn’t seen his father for twenty two years. On one hand he was especially bound to his father, from the fact that he was the eldest son of Rochel. Yaakov was also his rebbi having taught him all that he learned in Yeshivas Shem v’Ever.

On the other hand, there was another reason that Yosef wanted to see his father. He understood the pain and suffering that his father endured over the last twenty two years of having ‘lost a son.’ To be united with his son again, after so many years, would bring supreme joy and happiness to him; it would be a moment of unparalleled exhilaration for Yaakov. Yaakov himself expressed this idea twice, later on in the parsha (45; 28 and 46; 30). It was to these two unrelated emotions that Rashi was alluding to. Yosef’s reasoning for seeing his father was solely that ‘his father would see him’ and rejoice; and while traveling to see his father he concealed all of his personal emotions and excitement for that. He strictly traveled to his father with the purest of motives-‘to present himself to his father’-just as Rashi stressed-and for no other reason.

But why was this necessary? Why did he feel it important to cover up his emotions and excitements as a reason for going to meet his father?

The answer is, that being that such joy would satisfy his own needs he considered that, in essence, to be selfish. To meet Yaakov, for that reason as well, would mean that the mitzvah would no longer be performed with complete purity. His own self-satisfaction would have tarnished the act. It was this, which Yosef wanted to avoid by hiding his own emotions and acting solely for his father’s sake. It was this same middah that Yosef showed his brother’s in Mitzrayim when acting harsh towards them. The reason for the harsh treatment says Rav Chaim, was to get his brothers to do teshuva and regret the fact that they sold him. His motives were solely for the sake of his brothers and not one iota of revenge found its way into Yosef’s heart.

We learn from Yosef’s actions how one should perform a mitzvah. Do we do things simply because we’re ‘going there anyways’ or because we have free time and we truly want to get a mitzvah? Many a time, we find ourselves in a position where we do a mitzvah with ulterior motives; because we too can benefit from it. But to do an act strictly for the sake of the mitzvah, without any self satisfaction, is what Yosef was teaching us. Try taking someone out of your way when you’re in a rush. It might be extremely frustrating, but only the first time. Afterwards, when you realize the little time-the minutes- that you are losing in exchange for doing a mitzvah, it changes your approach to things. It is extra special to Hashem when you do a mitzvah bein adam l’chaveiro not because it seems ‘nice’, but simply because it is a mitzvah.

May we all be zoche to perform mitzvohs solely for the sake of the mitzvah and without any ulterior motives, showing Hashem that we are yearning the day when we can once again perform the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash, strictly for His sake, in Yerushalayim.