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Tuesday
Nov272018

HOW THE TALE OF YOSEF’S ENSLAVEMENT IS ABOUT REDEMPTION

At first glance, the tale of how Yosef was sold from Eretz Yisroel, from the house of his father, and brought to Egypt as a slave does not convey the concept of redemptionit seems to be the exact opposite!

Translated by Boruch Merkur

2. Regarding the emancipation of Yud-Tes Kislev, the Alter Rebbe writes that it happened on “‘zeh ha’yom asa Hashem lanu,’ Yud-Tes Kislev, Yom Gimmel sh’huchpal bo ki tov, hilula rabba fuhn Moreinu HaRav HaMaggid – ‘This is the day Hashem has made for us,’ Yud-Tes Kislev, the third day of the week (Tuesday), a day regarding which ‘ki tov – it was good’ is said twice [in the Torah’s account of Creation], the day celebrating the yahrtzait of our teacher the Mezritcher Maggid.”

Here the Alter Rebbe mentions both the date according to the days of the year, “Yud-Tes Kislev,” as well as according to the days of the week, “the third day of the week.” This description is from a letter the Alter Rebbe wrote and publicized concerning his being freed from prison. Clearly his description of the date is connection with and provides insight to the concept of freedom. The fact that it was Yud-Tes Kislev and that it occurred on “the third day, sh’huchpal bo ki tov” are thus pertinent to understanding the liberation. […]

3. The Alter Rebbe was freed on Parshas VaYeishev, on the third day of the week, corresponding to the third reading of the parsha. The third aliya tells how Yosef was sold into slavery in Egypt. Certainly the tale of how Yosef was sold from Eretz Yisroel, from the house of his father – “gunov gunavti mei’eretz ha’Ivrim – I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews” (B’Reishis 40:15) – and brought to Egypt as a slave does not convey the concept of redemption. It seems rather to be the exact opposite of redemption! […]

But Yaakov arrived in Egypt and saw how Yosef had fared for years there, serving as viceroy to the king and possessing total authority over the entire land (“lo yarim ish es yado v’es raglo – no one shall lift up his hand [to raise a sword] or foot [to mount a horse
––Rashi]” (B’Reishis 41:44)). It immediately struck Yaakov that Yosef can continue the work he had done; Yaakov no longer needed to do the work himself [as his life’s efforts could achieve perpetuity through Yosef].

Upon seeing Yosef in this light, Yaakov declared, “amusa ha’paam – now I may die,” for now he can rely on Yosef to continue his life’s work. It was no longer necessary for Yaakov to be present in the yeshiva, to be present at shul; he can rely on his son to serve a hundred percent in the capacity that he had done until then.

While Yaakov was still in Eretz Yisroel he was told that Yosef was alive, yet it was not until he saw Yosef with his own eyes that he said “amusa ha’paam.” If this assurance and dependence upon Yosef was to be achieved simply by learning that Yosef was alive – he knew about that while still in Eretz Yisroel. Upon hearing that Yosef was alive, Yaakov did not gain that assurance. The entire time he had not witnessed for himself how Yosef was unaffected by living in Mitzrayim – or America, by extension [see earlier in the sicha, where this concept is elaborated] – Yaakov could not rely on him. He did not know whether he could count on Yosef to take up his tasks of spending time in yeshiva, in shul, visiting orphanages, being part of the congregation. Yaakov still had to see for himself that a Jewish organization is being run the way it should. And upon hearing news of Yosef’s successful operation – that his son can oversee an institution that has so many millions of dollars and so many floors, and “lo yarim ish es yado v’es raglo” without his authorization – he still was not convinced that Yosef lives the way Yaakov lives and how Yaakov wished for him to live.

But when he came to Mitzrayim he saw for himself what was happening – that notwithstanding Yosef’s impressive entourage, a spectacle fit for a viceroy, “Va’yipol al tzavarav va’yeivk,” Yosef cried upon his shoulder, as Rashi relates. Yosef was unimpressed by life in Egypt, by his position as viceroy – nothing affected him. What did have an impact on him was what would become of a Jewish Beis HaMikdash centuries later. That concern touched him to his core, evoking in him tears that hundreds of years later there would be the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. That’s what Yaakov saw that convinced him that now there can be “amusa ha’paam” – that Yosef is alive as Yosef ought to live.

Thus, Yosef’s being brought to Mitzrayim from Eretz Yisroel is not an instance of exile. Outwardly he was cast into servitude, but in actual fact he was establishing in Eretz Mitzraim, “L’horos l’fanav Goshna,” preparing Jewish institutions of education in advance of the arrival of his brethren. Yosef’s descent to Egypt allowed Jews to have a place to go and live when famine would strike Eretz K’naan. He provided for them not only to live there materially but ensuring that their spiritual needs were also provided for, establishing a center of Torah study there and beis midrash, as Yaakov and his family had at home in Eretz Yisroel.

This is the lesson learned from the third aliya of Parshas VaYeishev: The soul of each Jew emerges from the Heavenly Throne and descends into a deep pit, into a body and an Animal Soul, going into an exile within an exile. A Jew is taken from cheider, from yeshiva, from shul, and is cast into this physical world to be involved with worldly affairs. In reaction to this dramatic relocation, the soul cries out: What do you want from me? I want to sit and learn! When the soul cries out in this manner and the body hears its cry, then it is not a parsha of exile, of the sale of Yosef to Egypt in a manner of “yarod yaradnu,” a dramatic descent; it becomes the opposite. It becomes the opportunity “l’hachayos am rav – to provide for a vast nation,” “l’michya shlachani Elokim lifneichem – I was sent before you by the Alm-ghty to be a source of livelihood.” Thus, the place of exile itself becomes a refuge [and home for Jewish interests to flourish, and Yosef’s descent is itself seen as a redemption].

(From the address of 19 Kislev 5725; Sichos Kodesh 5725, pg. 196, 199, 201-202)

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