What are they crying about?

ציור: אהובה קליין
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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

The Torah portion of Vayigash that we read on Shabbat appears to be the most emotional parasha in the Torah. 22 years after the brothers threw Joseph into a pit, after he wound up in prison in Egypt, and then became viceroy in the royal palace – Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and they reunite.

The embrace of Joseph and his brother Benjamin is described as follows: “And he fell on Benjamin’s neck and cried, and Benjamin cried on his neck.” Rashi explains that Joseph cried over the two Holy Temples that would be built in Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin and then be destroyed. But this was still prior to the enslavement in Egypt and the Exodus. Why was it necessary to cry at such an emotional and happy moment over the Holy Temples that would be destroyed hundreds of years later?

The answer is that the Holy Temples would be destroyed in the future because of baseless hatred. At this moment in the parasha the brothers succeed in rectifying the horrible sin of baseless hatred. They cry because they fear that in the future, too, this sin will continue to accompany our people and will even destroy our common home. They cry because we may not draw the proper conclusions from the story that has just ended regarding the sale of Joseph. It’s a story of a bitter quarrel and the alienation and separation that followed it, but also a story of the brothers’ success at ultimately making peace with one another and of going forward together.

They are not crying about themselves but about the future of the Jewish people, about us. Have we learned our lesson?

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