21 Dec 2023 Vayigash 5784: Limud Torah, Our Survival Through the Exiles
In parshas Vayigash, after twenty-two long, painful and productive years, Yosef and his family are reunited.
After Yehuda’s passionate soliloquy to save his brother, Binyamin, from being kept as a servant by the at-times-cruel, at-times-kind, erratic and strange viceroy of Egypt, Yosef reveals himself to his stunned brothers. “I am Yosef, is my father still alive?” “I am Yosef, your brother, the one who you sold to Egypt” (Bereishis 45:3-4). Yet, he reassures them that this was all part of Hashem’s master plan, and he bears no ill will towards them: וְעַתָּה אַל–תֵּעָצְבוּ, וְאַל–יִחַר בְּעֵינֵיכֶם, כִּי–מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי, הֵנָּה כִּי לְמִחְיָה, שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹקים לִפְנֵיכֶם – But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you (ibid, v.5).
Yosef instructs his brothers to go back up to Canaan, to inform father that he is alive, and to move the entire family – Yaakov ish u’vaiso – down to Egypt, where Yosef will settle them in Goshen and provide for them during the coming years of famine.
To prepare for his arrival in, and move to, Egypt, Yaakov sends his son Yehuda ahead of him: וְאֶת־יְהוּדָ֞ה שָׁלַ֤ח לְפָנָיו֙ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֔ף לְהוֹרֹ֥ת לְפָנָ֖יו גֹּ֑שְׁנָה וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה גֹּֽשֶׁן – and Yehuda he sent before him to Yosef, to instruct ahead of him in Goshen; and they came to the land of Goshen (46:28).
For what purpose did Yaakov send Yehuda ahead of him, and to prepare and instruct what in Goshen?
Rashi, quoting the Medrash, teaches: לפניו. קֹדֶם שֶׁיַּגִּיַע לְשָׁם. וּמִדְרַשׁ אַגָּדָה לְהוֹרוֹת לְפָנָיו – לְתַקֵּן לוֹ בֵּית תַּלְמוּד שֶׁמִּשָּׁם תֵּצֵא הוֹרָאָה – Before he (Yaakov) would arrive there. And the Midrashic teaching explains that לְהוֹרֹ֥ת לְפָנָ֖יו is from the lashon ‘to teach, to instruct’, for Yaakov sent Yehuda ahead of him to establish for him a beis talmud, a house of study, from which instruction would go forth.
And only once the yeshiva was established, did Yaakov descend to Egypt, and then we are told that Yosef harnessed his chariot and went up to meet his father, Yisrael, in Goshen (v.29).
When Rav Yaakov Edelstein zt’l (rav of Ramat HaSharon, brother of Rav Gershon Edelstein zt’l), was appointed chief rabbi of Ramat HaSharon, he asked the Chazon Ish (Rav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878-1953) zt’l what would happen to his learning (as he would have to be busy with issues regarding his new position, in a town with no yeshiva). “Open a yeshivah,” the Chazon Ish answered. And so, the new Rav opened a yeshiva – Yeshivas HaSharon – in the village.
The Israeli newspaper, Maariv, reported with excitement, “The inauguration of Yeshivas Ha’Sharon: It started with three students and today numbers one hundred. Its curriculum includes both Torah and secular studies. The students are living example of the merging of the exiles from dozens of countries. Here learn students from Kiryat Shemonah, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, settlements in the Sharon region, and even the Negev.”
In the year 5713 (1953), The Chazon Ish visited Ramat HaSharon (he was sandek at Rav Edelstein’s eldest son’s bris). During this visit, he tested the talmidim of Yeshivas HaSharon and blessed them.
When Rav Edelstein taught Parshas Vayigash, he would discuss how Yehuda descended to Egypt in order to concern himself, first and foremost, with Torah study:
“Even before Yaakov Avinu had a place to live, before he had a bed in which to sleep, he vowed that he would have a place where he could learn. Torah study was the foundation. It is in countries where the study of Torah slackened that there was the greatest assimilation. People told themselves, ‘Fine, so the children won’t learn Torah, but at least they will put on tefillin and keep Shabbos.’ But those things will not endure without Torah study. So the first thing I did in Ramat HaSharon was to open the yeshiva” (Reaching to Heaven, Artscroll Mesorah, p.57-58).
In order for our nation to survive – in every place and every time and in any place and any time – the establishment of mekomos for limud Torah are of primary, paramount and fundamental importance. Without learning, loving, and living Torah (chas v’shalom), our nation cannot thrive and persevere. It is the kochos, kedusha, and ahava that emanates from our limud Torah that fuels our nation and ensures our survival. These are the spiritual weapons necessary for the Jewish neshama to shine, and for us to fight our enemies who rise up in each and every generation to destroy us.
As Dovid ha’Melech teaches us: אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים – these ones go out to battle with chariots, and these ones go to battle with horses, וַאֲנַחְנוּ בְּשֵׁם–ה אֱלֹקינוּ נַזְכִּיר – but Am Yisrael goes to battle with the name of Hashem in their hearts, minds and prayers (Tehillim 20:8).
The Rambam teaches that if one is living in an environment of wicked sinners, who seek to prevent one from learning Torah, he should go out to caves, thickets and deserts, rather than follow the path of sinners amongst whom he lives (cf. Hichos De’os 6:1). The Chazon Ish teaches that the yeshivos and batei medrash are the ‘deserts’ that the Rambam is referring to. “The only thing that we can do until Moshiach arrives is to establish one more Talmud Torah, one more yeshiva, and one more Torah shiur” (Mishpacha magazine, Chaunka edition, 12.6.23, p.224).
May our efforts in limud Torah be sweet before HKB”H, may the Torah be a zechus for the shemirah for our brave, courageous, mighty and heroic soldiers, and may we merit the immediate and ultimate geula in our days and in our time, amen v’amen,