Shabbat Commentary

3/4 Jan: Viyigash: Shabbat comes in 3:49 pm,  ends  4:59 pm

Josef and his family are now united in Egypt. Josef asks Pharaoh that his family be allowed to settle in Goshen. Malbim (Ukraine 19th c.) comments that Josef uses a verb (lagur) which means “to sojourn,” or to stay temporarily. When Pharaoh replies, he uses the verb leshev, which means, in this context, “to settle permanently.” Josef seems reluctant to impose on Pharaoh’s hospitality, while Pharaoh (despite the famine in Egypt itself) seems more than happy to have the rest of Josef’s family.

Throughout the whole encounter, Josef, the one who would seem to be the most secure, really is the most ill at ease, trying to paper over his family’s size and its “unacceptable” occupation. He shows himself unwilling to trust either his family or his adopted sovereign to know how to relate to each other. Unlike his successors, this particular Pharaoh has gone out of his way to provide for his people and to welcome those in need, and in doing so, he offers Josef and his family a lesson in honest dealing.

Written by 
Rabbi Paul Arberman










































































































































































































































































































































































So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme.  One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.


Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.


Rabbi Paul Arberman.


Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself.  This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:

” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,

hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,

as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”

Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society.  His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.

I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman









January 2, 2020