• Gabbai

Vayigash – Fortifications

Moving house is no simple matter even if it is just down the road. Knowing the neighbourhood, its people and institutions, eliminates at least some worries and limits the upheaval of relocation. Changing countries, on the other hand, requires adapting to new cultures and different societies, finding good schools, learning what the local challenges are and how to deal with them.

After over two decades of mourning Joseph’s death, Jacob descended to Egypt, reuniting with Joseph as well as escaping the famine that plagued the region. The Torah informs us of two events that happened upon his arrival. First we learn that Jacob had sent his son Judah ahead to prepare for the family’s arrival in Goshen. Next the verse describes Joseph’s enthusiasm to meet his father in Goshen, where Jacob and his family were to reside.

“He sent Judah before him to Joseph, to instruct ahead of him to Goshen, and they arrived in the region of Goshen. And Joseph harnessed his chariot and he went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen, and he appeared to him, and he fell upon his neck, and he wept on his neck exceedingly.” (Gen. 46:28-29)

The great medieval commentator Rashi cites Midrashic interpretations of both the above verses. Judah was sent ahead of the family, according to Rashi’s second explanation, to establish a house of study as a source of learning. And this, according to the verse, had to happen before Jacob’s arrival.

Rashi clarifies the next verse as well. In the simplest reading of verse 29, cited above the subject is Joseph and the object is Jacob. Thus, Joseph appeared before Jacob, Joseph fell upon Jacob’s neck and Joseph wept on Jacob’s shoulders. Rashi endorses this reading of the verse as do most other commentators. Rashi again cites the sages, explaining that although Joseph wept, Jacob did not. Jacob was engaged in reciting the shema prayer.