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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Vayigash

We are approaching our last weeks of the third cycle of divrei Torah. There is thought to switch to Pirkei Avos, depending on sponsorship. Thank you to all our faithful readers. Ancient Stereotypes

Yaakov had learned that his beloved Yosef was indeed still alive, and he decided to travel to Mitzrayim to see him once more. At this time Yaakov was still under the impression that his visit to Egypt would be a short one, and after the famine had ended, he would return to the land of his fathers. He detoured to Be’er Sheva and offered uplifting sacrifices to Hashem. That night in Be’er Sheva, Hashem appeared to Yaakov and told him not to fear the descent to Mitzrayim, for he would become a great nation there. Hashem would stay with him in Exile, and He would bring Yaakov back to Eretz Yisroel (for burial), with Yosef being close by when he would pass away (in Egypt). Yaakov now knew that his trip to Mitzrayim would not be what he had hoped. This was the beginning of the long and arduous Galus that his children would suffer at the hands of a foreign nation. Hashem was telling Yaakov that he had indeed succeeded in instilling his children with the spiritual fortitude to sustain the Galus, and it was time for it to begin. He should go down with his children and use the remaining time he had to continue to influence them, perhaps allowing more people to eventually survive the Galus. Yosef was sent ahead to prepare a soft landing-spot for Yaakov and his children, and no it was time to settle in Egypt. Now, as we know, Pharoah’s intentions were to have Yosef’s family bolster his country’s economic prowess and build Egypt into a world power. He wanted leadership and assimilation from us, while we wanted the exact opposite. Yosef had already somehow survived many years as viceroy of Mitzrayim, successfully keeping his family separate from the Egyptian culture. One of the tactics he used to this end was that he continuously ate meat. The Torah tells us that the Egyptians abhorred those who ate meat! So why would Yosef eat meat in front of them? If he loved meat so much, he could have easily eaten it in private! Rather, Yosef specifically labeled himself as a meat-eater to distance himself socially. And when presenting his brothers to Pharoah, Yosef attempted a similar tactic. He labeled his family a nation of herders, in order to make them seem lowly in the eyes of the populace. What is interesting to note here, is that the people of Egypt were also sheep herders?! During the famine, the pasuk tells us explicitly that they traded their sheep for food! It is quite obvious then that the people in Mitzrayim did indeed herd sheep! Rather, the difference must have been that they treated their sheep like royalty; only upstanding and honorable shepherds were employed, and they attended to just a few sheep. The difference between the Egyptians and other shepherds was quite small indeed. Yet, Yosef knew that as soon as he labeled his family as shepherds, their social standing would instantly deflate! This is perhaps the first example we find of the dangers of stereotyping; where one is labeled and judged without a second thought! And how many times are we guilty of this, where we assume something of others based on a label, never looking to understand why that label was created and if it even applies to the person at hand! This too is part of the influence of the Galus around us. It is a shortsighted and self-centered view of the world that leads to stereotyping, and we must eradicate it from among us. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss


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