Thursday, December 29, 2011

Yosef's wagons

"Ani Yosef achichem asher machartem osi...." (45:4) 
"I am your brother Yosef whom you sold into slavery..." 
The Ohr haChaim says a fantastic vort here.  Yosef told his brothers that even when they sold him, he still felt towards them as a brother and bore no animosity.

Why does the Torah tells us, "Vatechi ruach Ya'akov," only after he saw the wagons which Yosef sent from Mitzrayim?  Chazal tell us that when Yosef left home he was learning the sugya of eglah arufah with his father.  By sending agalos, Yosef was hinting that he was still holding in learning despite his 22 years of seperation.  The Divrei Shaul adds an additional point which ties together nicely with this post on the parsha of eglah arufah.  The reason an eglah arufah is brought by the closest city to where a dead body is found is because even if no one in that closest city is guilty of murder, the fact that such a heinous act occurred on that particular city's doorstep indicates that something is rotten.   Hashgacha, not chance, dictates the location the body is found.  It was this element of hasgacha pratis that Yosef was hinting to his father.  Whatever his brothers had done, Yosef did not want Ya'akov to lose sight of the fact that yad Hashem dictated his fate.

The Beis Ya'akov of Ishbitz takes a different approach in an amazing torah here.  A little more background on eglah arufah: The gemara  asks why the eglah arufah ceremony is done by the elders of the city -- surely we don't suspect them of doing wrong?  The gemara answers that the zekeinim are accountable because perhaps this stranger who is found dead came to their city and they allowed him to pass through without a greeting, without an escort ("leviya") to the road, without being made to feel at home.  Who is more vulnerable than a stranger left alone in a strange place? 

The word "leviya" means more than escort -- it means connection.  When Levi is born, Leah says, "Hapa'am yilaveh ishi eilei," now Ya'akov will really connect with me.  What Chazal are telling us is that the job of the zekeinim is to build and strengthen the connections between us.  Someone recently told me about his experience coming to a Beis Medrash to look into a certain yeshiva for his son and no one came over to say "shalom aleichem," no one asked who he was or what he was doing there.  Those zekeinim failed to do their job.  When there is a sense of belonging, of connectedness, among members of Klal Yisrael, then no evil can befall us.  When their is divisiveness and strife, then bad things follow and you need eglah arufos. 

Yosef knew that relations between himself and his brothers were frayed, so he had immersed himself in this parsha of eglah arufah -- the "ben zekunim" needed to take the role of the zakein and ensure that there was no sheivet left out in the cold by his dreams.  When it came time to reunite with his brothers, to reunite with his father, he reminded them that he was still holding by this same parsha.  These wagons were Yosef's eglah arufa -- a kaparah on the strife that might have left any one of the brothers without "leviya," without that feeling of connection to each other. 

(I don't really need to go into detail about current events and how they relate to this idea.)

I thought I had once posted it, but I can't find it, so I'll mention it here.  The Midrash compares Sarah Imeinu to an eglah temimah, a beautiful calf.  R' Tzadok quotes his rebbe, the Ishbitzer, as explaining that the word eglah is like the word "agol," round.  Sarah's life did not have high points and low points in her avodah -- it wasn't like a wave -- but rather every point around the circle from beginning to end was the same.  Any point might be labelled the beginning, any point the end.  

Yosef perhaps sent agalos to signal to his father this idea that his life had come around full circle -- he remained the same Yosef haTzadik that started the journey from home 22 years earlier.  


  1. Anonymous10:00 PM

    "vayomer yisrael el yosef amusah
    hapa'am"(46:30; Rashi says Yisrael feared that the Holy One would
    hold him responsible for Yosef's
    'death'), vayomer yisrael, gazing upon the bloodied kesones hapasim in his mind, upon the garment that had been a target on Yosef's torso when Yaakov sent him mei'emek chevron, "yadeinu lo shafchu es hadam hazeh v'aineinu lo ra'u" (devarim 21:7)

  2. Who is the Beis Yakov of Ishbitz? Does he have a sefer?

  3. shoyn7:15 AM

    for a beautiful interpretation of relevance of egla arufa to yosef and yakov see Likutei Sichos from LR volume 30 P 222-224.

    [vihiyisem nekiyim, this was posted in australia where shabbos is out]

  4. chaim b.6:30 PM

    Beis Ya'akov --

    Shoyn -- Do you have a link? I guess I can look around if you don't (I'm being lazy).

  5. shoyn5:46 PM