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6/7 January: Shabbat Vayigash

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When Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, he makes the following compound statement: “I am Joseph- Is my father still alive?”  Many commentaries ask why Joseph would ask that question at this dramatic moment especially since he has been hearing about his father from the brothers all along.

One possible reason might be that Joseph assumed that his brothers were lying to him about their father. They might have told him that Jacob was alive in order to elicit sympathy when, in reality, Jacob may have been dead.  Therefore, now that he has revealed his identity, Joseph asks the most important question on his mind:  Is my father still alive?

Another possibility is that Joseph is asking if Jacob has been living his life after he thought he lost Joseph.   I’ll explain.  When Joseph sends his brothers back to Jacob with wagons and gifts, the brothers tell Jacob all that has happened.  And we are told that Jacob’s spirit is revived.  The commentator Rashi says that the Divine Spirit returned to Jacob. He had basically lost the will to live during the years of sadness.   Perhaps it is a reminder that tragedies and simchas affect our health and well being.   And they touch a wide circle of people — not just the primary actors.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

January 5, 2017