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Dec112018

WHY JUDAH?

ESTABLISHMENT OF A HOUSE OF STUDY

After Joseph reunites with his brothers and before Jacob is brought to Egypt to reunite with his son, Jacob sends Judah ahead with a mission.

He sent Yehudah ahead of him to Joseph, to direct [literally: instruct] him to Goshen, and they came to the land of Goshen.

According to a Midrash cited by Rashi, Jacob sent Judah ahead “to establish for him a House of Study (Beis Talmud) from which instruction shall go forth.”

The Talmud tells us that, well before Sinai, the Patriarchs studied Torah and practiced its commandments (in such form as was then possible and applicable). Jacob’s 12 sons were no strangers to Torah. Indeed, the Talmud asserts that a Yeshivah (House of Study) existed throughout the Egyptian exile.

Moreover, when Joseph sent wagons to pick up his father, it was a signal that he had not forgotten his Torah teachings, the last of which dealt with a subject related to wagons.

The circumstances related above have prompted commentators to question why Jacob sent Judah to establish a House of Study. After all, if Joseph was schooled in Torah knowledge, he could have established the Yeshivah himself. One might also ask, why not send Levi? After all, according to our Sages, it was the tribe of Levi that never abandoned study at the Yeshivah throughout the Egyptian bondage.

After some thought, we must conclude that Jacob was not interested in just any type of Torah learning. He wanted learning that would relate to survival within exile and empowerment that would eventually lead to liberation from it. Jacob knew that Judah’s brand of teaching was unmatched.

What was it about Judah that made him uniquely suited to establishing a House of Study?

HAVDALAH CANDLES AND JUDAH?

To answer this question, we must consider an enigmatic comment from the Midrash Tanchuma. The style of this particular Midrashic text is to precede a discussion of the Torah’s text with a statement of a law related to the verse under discussion.

However, before this particular verse, the Midrash cites a law that seems wholly unrelated to the verse in which Jacob sends Judah ahead to Egypt.

The Midrash Tanchuma states:

Thus did our Sages teach:

One may not recite the blessing over the candle [in the Havdalah service] after the Sabbath unless one derives some benefit from the light.

From whence did they know this? [They derived it] from G-d, as it says, “And G-d saw the light that it was good and he separated…”. From here [we derive] that one does recite the blessing on the candle after the Sabbath only when deriving benefit from the light.

The Midrash then describes the meeting between Judah and Joseph as a heavenly sign of the reconciliation between these rival brothers.

What is the connection between the law concerning the Havdalah candle at the conclusion of Shabbos and Judah establishing a House of Study in Goshen? And how does this relate to the rapprochement between Judah and Joseph?

TWO CLUES

A clue to understanding the connection can be found in the word Goshnah-to Goshen. This word contains the same four letters that are inscribed on the dreidel that we customarily spin during Chanukah. This gives us a broad hint that the verse in which Judah is sent to Goshen is related to Chanukah.

A less subtle hint can be found in the numerical value of the word Goshnah, 358, the same as for Moshiach!

This shows us that the idea of separation between light and darkness, the underlying theme of Havdalah, is related to the light of Moshiach.

Once we understand the relationship between Havdalah and the light of Moshiach, we can understand the connection to the sending of Judah to the land of Goshen. Jacob’s sending of Judah, the progenitor of the Davidic dynasty and Moshiach, to go forward to Goshnah, to Moshiach, is connected to the concept of Havdalah.

TWO FORMS OF LIGHT

The verse cited by the Midrash, wherein G-d sees that the light is good and He separates light and darkness, refers to the creation of light on the First Day. This light, our Sages teach, was not sun light but a primordial spiritual light that enabled one to see “from one end of the world to another.” This light, our Sages tell us, was qualitatively different from sun light and other forms of physical light that we experience today, because it allows us to see beyond what our eyes can normally see.

Conventional light does not give us the means to see the entire picture, with its subtext and context of every place, time, person, and experience. When we look at a person, for example, we cannot know who the person really is. We can’t see into his or her soul; we don’t know what he or she did a minute ago or under what circumstances. With conventional light, our eyes conceal much more than what they reveal.

By contrast, the light created on the First Day possessed the power to open our eyes to see the totality of the universe. This light is simultaneously a microscope and a telescope; it enables us to see the large picture without missing the slightest nuance.

This primordial, spiritual light benefitted humanity only for the 36 hours after Adam’s creation on the First Friday. This glorious light illuminated the entire Shabbos. When Shabbos ended, the supernal light was hidden. Our Sages tell us that when darkness engulfed the world, Adam was frightened. G-d endowed him with the ingenuity and ability to create fire and dispel the darkness with a mundane light. This is the source of our practice to recite a blessing over the Havdalah candle. By this light, G-d compensated him and all his descendants for the loss of the powerful primordial light. We may suggest that by benefitting from the Havdalah candle it whets our appetite and enhances our yearning for the Messianic Age when the supernal light will be revealed once more.

Joining the Exclusive Club of 36

Our Sages say that the 36 hours of Divine light are reflected in the 36 candles that we light during the eight days of Chanukah. It has also been suggested that the light of these 36 hours correspond to the spiritual effect of the 36 hidden righteous people, in whose merit the entire world stands. They are influenced by, and inspired with, this powerful light. This is the light that gives these righteous people the ability to see beyond the superficial.

So when “G-d saw that this light was good, and separated it,” it means, as Rashi explains, that He separated, i.e., withheld, this light from the world so that the wicked could not abuse its power. He reserved it for the exceptionally righteous during Galus and for all in the Messianic Age. In addition, during Chanukah, when we kindle the lights, all of us, not just the 36 hidden righteous people, enter the exclusive 36 Tzaddikim club and are afforded a glimpse and a taste of this light.

The Havdalah service thus underscores the uniqueness of the original light which shined in the first Shabbos of Creation, the loss of which had to be compensated for by the creation of our own light in the weekdays kindled through our own efforts.

There is a dual message to be read here:

First, when we take leave of the Shabbos, which reminds us of the primordial light, we naturally long for the day that this light will be restored.

Second, we take some comfort in the knowledge that G-d gave us the ability to generate a light that will benefit us. In the aggregate, all of our efforts to bring light to the dark world will help us reach our goal of restoring the primordial Divine light to this world. It is therefore crucial that we appreciate the benefits of light so it will encourage us to focus on the need to prepare for the time when the Divine light of the First Day of Creation will illuminate the world.

We can now better understand the connection between Judah’s going to Goshen and the idea of separation of the light with the reconciliation between Judah and Joseph. As we shall see, these three points all revolve around preparation for the Messianic Age.

As the first Jewish family was setting the stage for the Egyptian exile, the forerunner of all our subsequent exiles, Jacob sent Judah to Goshen. Jacob wanted him to teach the people that exile is not an end in itself but a means to the true end: Redemption. Moreover, as the Rebbe pointed out on many occasions, not only is exile a means to the end, the “end,” i.e., the Redemptive powers themselves, are actually embedded within exile. If we are able to penetrate the surface of exile, we will discover the most sublime G-dly energies lying therein.

According to the Midrash, this verse identifies what the process of Redemption is all about:

Judah and Joseph were the two rival forces in ancient Israel, whose reconciliation in the future is described in the Ezekiel (37) and featured in this week’s Haftarah. However, in that time to come Judah will be the dominant power; all the other tribes, including Joseph, will coalesce around Moshiach, the scion of Judah.

Jacob, prophetically, sends Judah Goshnah-to Goshen, the symbol of Moshiach. Before entering into exile, where Joseph is king-like, Jacob wanted everyone to know that ultimately those roles would be reversed with Judah-Moshiach as the dominant force.

This, at last, is the reason the Midrash cites the law concerning deriving benefit from the Havdalah candle. It underscores that the separation of the first Havdalah, between the primordial light and conventional light, has a direct bearing on the entry into exile then and preparation now for Redemption.

Reciting Havdalah at the conclusion of Shabbos reminds us that our efforts at creating light, especially during Chanukah, will bring about the ultimate revelation of Moshiach, who will usher in a complete reconciliation between Judah and Joseph and restore the Divine primordial light.

We can now also understand why Jacob chose Judah to establish a House of Study. Joseph was also capable of setting up a place for Torah knowledge; so too Levi. However, the Torah learning associated with Judah is unique. It is a foretaste of the Torah of the future; the knowledge of Torah that transcends conventional Torah wisdom because it contains the primordial light of G-d, concealed in the Torah. This directs us to the inner dimension and soul of Torah, as revealed through, and in, the teachings of Chassidus.

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