December 2, 2015
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #998, Moshiach & Hakhel, VaYeishev

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

In this week’s Parsha we learn of the descent of Yosef HaTzaddik into slavery in Egypt. This eventually led to the entire Jewish people going to Egypt and the entire story of Yetzias Mitzrayim.

Our story begins with the dreams of Yosef. The first dream is of the sons of Yaakov gathering stalks of wheat and then all the stalks of wheat bowing to the stalks of Yosef.  The second dream is of the sun (referring to Yaakov), the moon (the wives of Yaakov) and eleven stars (the sons of Yaakov) all bowing to Yosef.

Chassidus explains that there is much to learn from the dreams of Yosef. One takeaway message is that the dreams, i.e., aspirations, of a Jew must become more spiritual as they progress. While most people become coarser as they get older and are more involved with the world, a Jew must become more refined as he ages. We see this in the dreams of Yosef: While the first dream focuses on stalks of wheat from the earth, the second dream is of the celestial bodies of the heaven.

In the Sicha of VaYeishev 5748 (footnote 90), the Rebbe learns a tremendous lesson of Hakhel from the dreams of Yosef. Regarding the Mitzva of Hakhel, the Torah (D’varim 31:11) tells us:  “Assemble the people: the men, the women, and the children, and your stranger in your cities, in order that they hear, and in order that they learn and fear the Lord, your God, and they will observe to do all the words of this Torah.”

This we see clearly in the two dreams of Yosef. The first dream teaches us that we must go out into the field (out of our homes) and gather stalks of wheat (all the Jewish people) with the goal that they “bow” to the middle stalk. In the second dream we see the details of the Mitzva of Hakhel; we must make sure that the sun (men), the moon (women) and stars (children) all are gathered and instilled with Yiras Shamayim that they will all bow to Hashem.

Regarding the story of Yosef’s descent into Mitzrayim, there is a fascinating Midrash [Midrash Rabba 85:1]:

“Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman, when expounding on our parsha, would open his words with the following verse from Yirmiyahu [29:11]: ‘The thoughts that I’m thinking on them, says Hashem, are thoughts of peace and not evil, in order to give a future and a hope.’ The tribes were involved in the sale of Yosef, Yosef was involved in his sackcloth and his fasting, Reuven was involved in his sackcloth and his fasting, Yaakov was involved in his sackcloth and his fasting, Yehuda was involved in finding himself a wife while Hashem was involved in creating the light of the Moshiach.”

Fascinating. We’re mourning that which appears to be destruction while it is, in fact, Hashem’s creation. We mourn while Hashem creates light.

Here is a fascinating story that brings out this point, from Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust told by a Mr. Slucki (from www.torah.org):

When the Germans occupied my town, I hid my younger sister from them, working hard to provide food for an additional mouth. One day, as I was returning home, an eerie silence hung over the street, the kind of silence that followed the death wrought by the German Aktions. When I got home, I saw that the door had been broken, the apartment had been looted and my sister was gone. The neighbors told me that the Gestapo had taken her.

Without thinking I ran to the Gestapo headquarters. Walking in, I was greeted by a young soldier. “What’s your wish Jew? To be shot right now?”

“You took my sister!” I said. “Give her back to me.”

The German burst into wild laughter. “What strange ideas Jews have these days,” he choked. Suddenly he stopped laughing. “You know Jew, I will let your sister go on one condition: if right now you will grow hair on the palm of your hand.” So I opened the palm of my hand and… it was covered with black hair!

The Gestapo man’s face twisted into a terrible grimace. He began to shout hysterically, “You Jewish Satan, devil, take your sister and run.” He went to the next room, brought out my sister and pushed her toward me, all the while continuing to scream. We ran out and didn’t look back.

When Mr. Slucki was a youngster he had worked in a factory and his hand was once caught in a machine. They managed to save his hand by grafting skin from another part of his body. When he reached his teens, hair began to grow on the palm of his hand.

The miracle didn’t occur in the Gestapo headquarters. It occurred when he nearly lost his hand. Everyone was mourning as Hashem was creating light.

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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