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Vayigash 5783 - Looking Out for Others: A Way of Life

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After Yaakov is told the wonderful news that Yosef is alive, he prepares to move his entire family down to Egypt, where they will be financially and agriculturally supported by Yosef.

 

And in making those preparations the Torah tells us:

 

(מו:כח) וְאֶת יְהוּדָה שָׁלַח לְפָנָיו אֶל יוֹסֵף לְהוֹרֹת לְפָנָיו גֹּשְׁנָה וַיָּבֹאוּ אַרְצָה גֹּשֶׁן:

And Yaakov sent Yehuda ahead to Yosef, “L’HOROS L’FANAV” to Goshen, and he arrived in Goshen.

 

And what does it mean that Yehuda went ahead “L’HOROS L’FANAV”?

 

Rashi offers TWO EXPLANTIONS:

 

1)   The straightforward explanation is that the word “L’HOROS” means to teach or give instructions.  So, Yehuda went ahead to figure out exactly where everyone was going to live, so that he could instruct everyone when they would arrive exactly where to go, how to set up their homes and community.

 

2)   Medrash: The language of L’HOROS does not simply mean to teach, but to teach Torah.  That’s where the word TORAH comes from, HORAA, it is full of teachings, lessons for our life.

 

According to the medrash, then, the reason Yehuda went ahead was so he could set up what the medrash calls “BEIS TALMUD” A place of study, “SHEMISHAM TEIZTEI HORAA” a place from which the teachings of the Torah would emanate.


The medrash is clearly coming to instruct us that whenever we consider where we are going to live, where we are going to raise our families, the first question is “what is the religious infrastructure in this place”?

 

However, there is another question:  Why was Yehuda chosen as the one to go down and set up the religious infrastructure for his family?  Why not send Shimon & Levi?  Why not Yissachar?

 

 

The Tiferes Shlomo, (Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen of Radomsk (1803-1866) begins by reminding us that we all know well that there is a concept both in halacha as well as in Jewish thought known as “Kol Yisrael AREIVIM Ze laze”, all Jews are guarantors, responsible parties for one another.

 

And who is the first person in Jewish history to personify this concept of Arvus?  Yehuda.

 

When it comes time to send Binyamin down to Egypt, Yaakov refuses to do so, until Yehuda tells him:

 

(מ"ג:ט) אָנֹכִי אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ מִיָּדִי תְּבַקְשֶׁנּוּ אִם לֹא הֲבִיאֹתִיו אֵלֶיךָ וְהִצַּגְתִּיו לְפָנֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְךָ כָּל הַיָּמִים:

I will take responsibility for him.

 

And then, when Yehuda is standing before Yosef, begging for him to release Binyamin and take Yehuda instead, he says:

 

(מ"ד:לב) כִּי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת הַנַּעַר מֵעִם אָבִי לֵאמֹר אִם לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְאָבִי כָּל

הַיָּמִים:

“I became the guarantor, the responsible party for my brother…”

 

Yehuda is the FIRST person who takes responsibility for his fellow Jew just because it’s the right thing to do.

 

However, argues the Tiferes Shlomo, we don’t only learn from Yehuda the idea of being responsible for others in general, but also in what contexts it should be done.

 

Because Yehuda offered himself to Yosef as an EVED, a servant as a way of taking responsibility for Binyamin, and says the Tiferes Shlomo, it is not surprising that when it comes to our AVODA, our Avodas Hashem, that is where the real concept of ARVUS comes into play.

 

From a halachic perspective, the idea of Arvus means I have the opportunity – and even the responsibility - to help others fulfill mitzvos.  I can make kiddush, read the megillah, or blow the shofar for you, and you will fulfill the mitzvah.  And this is true EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY FULFILLED THAT MITZVAH MYSELF!    

 

Why?  Because, as the achronim explain, if another Jew hasn’t had the opportunity to grow in his or her own way, then I am missing something.  I have not totally fulfilled my own, personal responsibility, until I have helped others do so as well.

 

And argues the Tiferes Shlomo, that Yehuda provides the framework for this obligation of Arvus in ALL areas of our Avodas Hashem.  To be an Oveid Hashem while being an AREIV on behalf of others as well.

 

The first bracha in Shmone Esrei references all of the Avos:

-        Elokei Avraham (Chesed)

-        Elokei Yitzchak (Avoda, Davening),

-        Elokei Yaakov (Learning, Ish Tam Yosheiv Ohalim). 

 

Each of the Avos represented one of these three areas of our Avodas Hashem:

 

Avraham – Chesed

Yitzchak – Who was sacrificed, represents Avoda/Tefillah. 

Yaakov – the Ish Tam Yosheiv Ohalim, is Torah/Learning

 

Yet, at the conclusion of the bracha, we say Magen Avraham. 


Where did Yitzchak and Yaakov go? 

 

Rabbi Benjamin Yudin answers: Because in the end, Avraham, Chesed has to be the modifier of all three.  Our Torah should be a Toras Chesed, Our tefillah should be a Tefillas Chesed.   And even my chesed has to be a real chesed.

 

In the end, the concept of Arvus, of taking responsibility for others, and being mindful of how I can impact others, must be the bedrock of EVERY AREA of my Avodas Hashem.  Because Arvus isn’t only a halachic construct. It’s a way of life.

 

If this is true, now we understand that when it came time to send someone down to setup the Beis Medrash, the infrastructure for community, who did Yaakov send? The one person who stood for the concept of Arvus.  The person who would know what it means to make sure that every area of this religious community would have to be based on how we take responsibility for others.  The only person for the job was Yehuda.

 

And this also gives new meaning to the bracha that Moshe offers Shevet Yehuda at the end of the entire Torah:

 

(ז) וְזֹאת לִיהוּדָה וַיֹּאמַר שְׁמַע יְקֹוָק קוֹל יְהוּדָה וְאֶל עַמּוֹ תְּבִיאֶנּוּ יָדָיו רָב לוֹ וְעֵזֶר מִצָּרָיו תִּהְיֶה: ס

Hashem listens to the Voice of Yehuda.

 

Why does Hashem listen to the voice of Yehuda?  Continues the pasuk – Because “El Amo Tivienu”, everything he does, is directed towards Am Yisrael.  He doesn’t think only about himself.  No matter what he involves himself in, El Amo Tivenu, he’s focused on how it can have a benefit to others as well.

 

And it also comes as no surprise that Yaakov knew how to look out for this mida.  As we know, the tefillah that is synonymous with Yaakov Avinu is none other than the tefillah of ARVIS.  A tefillah of ARVUS, said in the dark of night, but always with a sense that even as I look out for myself, davening for my needs, I will always remember there are others in need as well.

 

We all have so much going on in our lives.  And it is difficult enough to focus on our own, personal Avodas Hashem and needs of our own families.  Nevertheless, it is so critical that as we make decisions about all areas of our life, that we ask ourselves, am I being an AREIV?  Am I considering the impact I can have on someone else? And I think there are two areas in particular we should be thinking about more often:

 

1)   The longer we live in a community, many of us begin to form a somewhat defined social circle. We start to have a certain group that we invite over more often. And that’s ok and it’s even healthy.  However, we all know that there are certain individuals and couples that may not be invited quite as often, and it is incumbent upon all of us to make more of an effort to make sure those families are invited too.  It doesn’t mean we have to do so every week.  But every once in a while, it would be appropriate to step out of our comfort zone and take responsibility for another family.  

 

2)   The same is true, and probably even more important, when it comes to children.  Towards the end of every week, parents text each other to make playdates for Shabbos.  And we all know, that while many children have playdates set up each week, there are some children who do not.  Maybe they’re not as socially savvy.  Maybe they go to a different school.  Whatever the reason, there are children who are not getting invited very often, and some who are barely getting invited at all.  And it is incumbent upon all of us, the parents in this community, to make sure these children are included.

 

We don’t have to invite them every week, but again, every once in a while, we should be encouraging our children to invite children who may not be their closest friends because we are all responsible for every child in our community.

 

And if our children say, “but I’m not friends with her”, or if you’ll say it’s uncomfortable, it is our job to teach our children that not everything in life is going to be comfortable all the time.  Sometimes we make ourselves a little uncomfortable so that someone else can feel included. That’s what being an areiv is all about.

 

Yehuda was sent to set up the religious infrastructure for his community because Yaakov saw the Yehuda knew the secret to a successful Torah community.  The recognition that Arvus is not simply a halachic concept, it’s a way of life. 

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