Chanelling Emotions

December 21, 2014

3 min read


Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27 )

Yosef harnessed his chariot and went up to meet Yisrael his father in Goshen. He appeared before him, fell on his neck, and he wept on his neck excessively. (Gen. 46:29)

Yaakov was informed that his long-lost son, whom he had not seen for 22 years, was alive and well and ruling Egypt. Overjoyed he headed down to Egypt to see him. Yosef went out to greet his father, falling on his neck weeping. Yaakov, however, did not fall on Yosef's neck, nor did he kiss him. Why not? The Midrash reveals that Yaakov was reciting Shema. Of all the times to say the Shema, he had to say it now - when he was finally re-united with his long lost son!? Couldn't he have had better itinerary planning? And if it was now the halachic time to say Shema, why didn't Yosef say it as well?

Emotions can be channeled in different ways. An actor who feels anxious and tense before a play can channel those feelings into high-powered energy and produce an incredible performance. The same is true for channeling our emotions to the service of God. When Yaakov saw Yosef after a long and painful separation, he experienced an outpouring of love and joy. He felt that instead of focusing purely on the joy of seeing his son, he should channel this love towards God, and so he immediately recited Shema.(1)

Character traits can also be redirected to better serve God. We find that both King David and Eisav were born with a tendency towards bloodshed. David utilized it for the good - he killed only in accordance with the rulings of the Sanhedrin, thus fulfilling God's will. Eisav, on the other hand, would kill whenever the mood moved him, and became the eternal symbol of cruelty and evil.

God created man with the ability to experience many emotions, and He wants us to use them to get closer to Him. How sad it is when people cry watching movies, wasting their precious tears on something that never even happened! The Talmud(2) states, "If a person encounters the evil inclination, he should drag him into the Beis Hamidrash (study hall)." The Ben Yehoyada explains, "If a sudden wave of physical desire overcomes a person, "He should bring it to the Bais Midrash" - instead of using the desire for something negative, he should hurry to utilize this energy for spiritual pursuits - the performance of a mitzva or the study of Torah.


1. Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, Maharal.

2. Kiddushin 30a.



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