Vayigash 2

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


The Pathway to Redemption 

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


“And Yoseph said to his brothers, “I am Yoseph, is my father still alive?”  But his brothers could not answer him, because they were confounded before him” (Genesis 45:3).

This is certainly one of the most dramatic parts of the Torah. After putting his brothers through so much suffering, Yoseph finally reveals himself to them. He hopes they realize that all the suffering they had undergone had a greater purpose. (Yoseph had caused the brothers this suffering in order to inspire repentance from them, for their act of selling him. When he saw they did not forsake Binyamin, and allow him to be imprisoned — though it would have been beneficial for them — he saw they had truly repented.)

But why does he do it in such a strange way? And why does he ask “is my father still alive?” several times during his conversations with his brothers? Yakov is mentioned several times during the conversations between Yoseph and his brothers. In fact, this is one of the reasons given as to why they did not want to bring their youngest brother Binyamin with them, so as not to cause Yakov any undue anguish were he to be lost.

As we know, the events mentioned in the book of Genesis have much deeper meaning than meets the eye. Many of the aforementioned “stories” in the book of Genesis have literally been guideposts for us thousands of years later. It is these stories that have given us the knowledge of how to conduct ourselves in all situations and it is the courage and devotion of our ancestors mentioned here which has provided us with the wherewithal to survive many difficult exiles.

The meeting between Yoseph and his brothers can be symbolized as the eventual meeting the Jewish people will have with Moshiach — the Messiah.

As we know the path in exile is not a smooth one. One of the reasons for this is that we have a mission to accomplish in exile. To simplify it, we must reveal as much of G-d’s presence on this earth as possible. This is done through observing the commandments, which are a manifestation of the G-dly spark within us. Even though we understand this on an intellectual level, it is much harder to grasp on an emotional level. This is why, sadly, there are many Jews who are unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

When the Messiah, symbolized by Yoseph, finally reveals himself, and shows that all the suffering that we have undergone has been for our own good (just as Yoseph did with his brothers), will we accept him wholeheartedly, or will we be “confused” ?

The Midrash Rabbah says that on the day of judgment, when G-d says to us: “I am G-d”, sadly, we will be ashamed for we have forgotten Him.

And when Yoseph asked “is my father still alive?”, certainly he was aware that Yakov was physically alive. But his question was more than that: is the hope of Yakov — who is also known as Yisroel (Israel) — still alive in his descendants? Do they still yearn for the Messiah after all this time?

We must keep the desire for the Messiah burning bright with us, and understand that what we see as suffering and difficulty are in reality part of the pathway to redemption.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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