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Shabbat Parashat Vayigash 5774

Parashat Hashavua: The Road from Beit El to Egypt

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, pp. 137-8

As the time had come for Yaakov to go down to Egypt, Hashem appeared to him with consolation and inspiration. The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 94:6) highlights three messages hinted at by the p’sukim (Bereishit 46:3-4: 1): Hashem is the G-d whom Yaakov knew from his dreams in Beit El. 2) He would be with Yaakov in Egypt as He is with other tzaddikim. 3) Yosef would “place his hands on Yaakov’s eyes.”

The path to redemption, which was completed in Egypt, went through Beit El (literally, the house of Hashem) and it would be based on Yosef’s hands over Yaakov’s eyes. Chazal (Pesachim 88a) tell us that Mt. Moriah was called different things by the different patriarchs. Avraham called it a mountain; Yitzchak called it a field; Yaakov called it a house. Hashem has to be present in all different situations. Not only is Hashem necessary in the beginning, when you need to conquer the Land and all that is there is a desolate mountain. Hashem is not only necessary when there is but a field, with much work needed for cultivation and there is little more than a hut or two. Indeed, even when there are houses, when there is some permanence and success and one is ready to have an independent base for his family, there is still a need for Hashem.

Sometimes the feeling of material well-being is corruptive. When the business is going well and the family is strong, one can start to think that strict religious observance and heeding the Torah make life too difficult. That is when one needs a reminder that “Yosef will put his hands on your eyes.” Yosef’s behavior should be a model for our eyes. Despite the high station he reached in society, he was not embarrassed by his Jewishness. The same man who, when he was in a lowly state, guarded his personal purity and his modesty, which enabled him ultimately to succeed, should be a role model as we go on the “path of Beit El,” in building our homes.

We should know that “if Hashem does not build a house, its builders will have toiled in vain” (Tehillim 127:1). If the family is not built on holiness, which shows that Hashem is part of the home, the negative results will show. Even if there are times when merits will push off the punishment of karet [ed. note – apparently, for lack of compliance to the laws of family purity], still the rules by which Hashem’s deals with the community apply to the individual as well. The home cannot stand with any permanence if it is not a House of G-d. The Divine Presence must be felt in all its rooms, and the life lived within its walls must be holy.

The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 95:3) explains that Yehuda’s advanced scouting was, according to some, to build a home to live in and according to others, to make a meeting place to teach Torah. We are required to connect the two ideas. Our homes must be such that words of Torah are heard within. The fact we are having this shiur [ed. note – this address was given during Rav Yisraeli’s first Shabbat as rabbi of K’far Haro’eh] shows that there is a desire we will firmly establish a place of learning. May it be a house that resembles that of Yaakov Avinu – a house that is a Beit El.

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