04 Dec 2015 In Spirit, In Blood
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeishev, Yaakov Avinu’s family is thrust into turmoil, upheaval and mourning, with the abduction, sale and sudden absence of Yosef, the beloved son.
As the parsha opens, the verses describe the disunity between the brothers and Yosef, as their hatred and jealousy of Yosef grows, in response to his dreams of power and rulership. The kesones pasim, the special coat, given to him by his father, does nothing to allay their concerns; nor does Yaakov’s special love for the first-born of Rachel. The emotions run so deep that the Torah tells us that the brothers can no longer speak to Yosef in peace.
Brothers by blood, yes; brothers in spirit, no.
And yet, on that fateful day, when the brothers were out shepherding the flocks, and Yaakov called upon Yosef to go search for his brothers, Yosef does not hesitate to accept the mission. הִנֵּנִי – Here I am, father! I am ready to fulfill your wishes. And so…seventeen year old Yosef went to Shechem in search of his brothers. Whereupon he met a mysterious man, a nameless Ish, who asked him what he was seeking. And Yosef replied and said: אֶת-אַחַי אָנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ – I am seeking my brothers, please tell me, where are they pasturing? And the man told Yosef that his brothers had traveled onwards towards Dosan.
Yosef found his brothers in Dosan, and as they see him approaching from afar they plot to kill him, Aha! they said, one to another. Here comes the Master of Dreams! Let us kill him and throw him into one of these pits, and then we will see what will become of his dreams…
What do you seek, asked the mysterious Ish? אֶת-אַחַי אָנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ – I seek my brothers, Yosef replied.
I am searching, wandering, looking and waiting for brothers who will treat me like a brother. For my brothers, I search. I am yearning for unity, brotherhood, and the love and acceptance of a fellow Jew. It is true that we may not always agree, one with another…but are we brothers in spirit, not only in blood?
It happened one Shabos afternoon that R’ Aryeh Levin zt’l, the tzadik of Jerusalem, was walking with his son. An American visitor approached R’ Aryeh with a lit cigarette in hand, and requested directions to his hotel. R’ Aryeh told him that the alleyways in Yerushalayim are complex, but he knew how to get there and would have no problem accompanying him. The man spoke a fluent Yiddish; he had actually learned in a European yeshiva before moving to the United States. R’ Aryeh spoke to him about his life in Europe and his adjustment to the U.S., and didn’t offer a single reprimand for smoking on Shabos.
When they reached the hotel, the man said to R’ Aryeh and his son, “While I don’t know who you are, I am so impressed with your self-control, as I violated Shabos right in front of you when I met you. I know the importance of Shabos from my yeshiva days, but have found it difficult to keep Shabos. However, from now on I will do my best to work on my self-control and not smoke again on Shabos.”
אֶת-אַחַי אָנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ
At the azkarah for Ezra Schwartz HY”D, which was held last week in Israel, the dean of Yeshivat Ashreinu, Rabbi Gotch Yuden told the 1,200 American seminary and yeshiva students in attendance that: “When we come together as a people there is no putting us down.”
It is my brothers that I seek.
Wishing you, and all of Klal Yisrael, b’chol makom she’heim, a lichtegeh Chanukah samayach.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,