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Vayigash 5774

Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!   Have you ever noticed that there is something unique about Jewish history? No nation has survived such persistent persecution and survived the millennia. For that matter, most nations which have not been persecuted have not survived the millennia! Not only have the Jewish people survived, but they have impacted the course of history and the values of the world like no other people!

For a nation to survive there are essential factors: a large population, a country where that population stays together, a common history, a common language. Not only has the Jewish people survived contrary to these requirements -- but our existence, our uniqueness and our impact are prophesied in the Torah!

In this and the next two editions, I am going to share with you 7 fascinating Torah prophecies about the Jewish people. In this edition are prophecies relating to our survival. We will then explore prophecies regarding our impact on the world.

* * *

1. ETERNAL NATION -- most nations rise and fall through history, yet...

It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews would be an eternal nation: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your descendants after you, throughout the generations. An eternal covenant to be your God, and the God of your descendants after you" (Genesis 17-7). This promise is repeated many times throughout the Torah (Leviticus 26:43, Deuteronomy 4:26-27, Deut. 28:63-64).

We survive to this day while it is fair to say that most people have never heard of the Hittites, Emorites, Perizzites, Jebusites or Girgashites who were our contemporaries.

2. FEW IN NUMBER -- for a nation to survive, it needs large numbers, yet:

The Torah tells us, "And you shall remain few in number among the nations to which God shall lead you" (Devarim 4:27).

To every other people, a small population spells extinction. We know from the records that the Romans kept about 2,000 years ago, there were between 8 -10 million Jews living in the world. How many Jews do demographers say should be in the world today?

If in the same period of time, the Chinese went from a population of 30 million to over 1 billion people, there should be approximately 500 million Jews alive in the world today. After the Chinese and the Indians, the third largest ethnic group on the planet earth should be the Jews! There are virtually no more Jews in the world today than there were 2,000 years ago and yet throughout all this time, the Jews remained a distinct people.

3. EXILE & DISPERSION -- for a nation to survive, its people need to stay together, yet:

The Torah prophecy informs us, "And you, I will scatter among the nations, at the point of My drawn sword, leaving your country desolate and your cities in ruins" (Leviticus 26:33).

The dispersion of the Jewish People to the four corners of the globe is a completely unique phenomenon in human history. (There are other dispersions of people from one land to another). Jews have wandered and settled in almost every land on earth -- while somehow managing to maintain their distinct national identity.

Multiple exiles are unheard of, since after the first one the people generally disappear -- they simply become assimilated among other peoples. In human history, multiple exiles and dispersion are unique only to the Jewish people.

4. ANTI-SEMITISM -- for a nation to survive, it needs to have no internal or external threats -- or the strength to defeat them, yet the Torah prophesies regarding the Jewish experience amongst their host nations:

"And Among those nations you will not be tranquil, there will be no rest for your foot. There God will give you a trembling heart, longing of eyes and suffering of soul. You will live in constant suspense. Day and night, you will be terrified, never sure of your existence. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were night,' and in the evening you will say, 'If only it were morning!' Such will be the dread that your heart will feel and the sights that your eyes will see" (Deut. 28:65-67).

No other form of racial hatred comes close to anti-Semitism in its virulence, its intensity and its irrationality. If we look at the history of anti-Semitism, we see one unceasing chain of slaughter, pogroms, pillaging, expulsion and genocide. And yet not only have we survived, but our history has been prophesied!


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Torah Portion of the Week
Vayigash, Genesis 44:18 - 47:27

We left off last week with Joseph's pronouncement that he was keeping Benjamin as a slave for stealing his wine cup. Judah steps forward to challenge the decision and offers himself as a slave instead of Benjamin. Joseph is overcome with emotion, clears the room of all Egyptians and then reveals his identity to his unsuspecting brothers.

The brothers are shocked! They suspect Joseph's intentions, but accept his offer to bring the extended family to Egypt. Jacob is initially numb and disbelieving of the news, but becomes very excited to see his son.

The Torah ... recounts the 70 members of Jacob's family which went down to Egypt. Jacob reunites with Joseph, meets Pharaoh and settles with the family in the Goshen district. During the famine, Joseph buys up all of the property and people in Egypt for Pharaoh with the grain stored during the seven good years.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph" (Genesis 45:3) when he reveals his true identity to his brothers.

The Chofetz Chaim comments that from the time the brothers first came to Egypt to get food -- when Joseph spoke with them roughly and accused them of being spies -- they were puzzled about what exactly was happening and why it was happening. In both encounters with Joseph they had many questions about their experiences. As soon as they heard the words, "I am Joseph" all their questions were answered. The difficulties they had in understanding the underlying meaning of the events -- why Joseph accused them of being spies, yet treated them well, accused them of lying and stealing, but gave them a banquet, insisted on bringing the younger brother to Egypt, etc. -- were now completely clarified.

Similarly, says the Chofetz Chaim, when the entire world will hear the words "I am the Almighty" at the final redemption of the Jewish people, all the questions and difficulties that people had about the history of the world with all of its suffering will be answered. The entire matter will be clarified and understood. Everyone will see how the hand of the Almighty caused everything ultimately for our benefit.

When one realizes that the Almighty has a plan and a purpose for all the events that occur, it gives meaning to the hardships and suffering. Even if you do not know the exact meaning of a particular event, the knowledge that there is an ultimate meaning will enable you to view the situation in a positive, albeit painful, manner.


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