Parashat Vayigash

The depth of Crying

Joseph and his brothers

Harav Israel Asulin

Tuesday, 3rd of Tevet, 5776


One of the issues we run into it when we merit to make progress in our spiritual growth relates to other people.

After a person engages in personal development work, makes progress and increases his ability to make good choices- suddenly he begins to see the people that were left behind, and he realizes how much they are stuck and lacking direction.  If, for example, you merited to stay in the boundaries of healthy eating that you set for yourself and you made it through Hanukah without letting a tiny bit of jelly or powdered sugar touch your lips- what goes through your mind when you see around you plump people who are chewing between their teeth donuts dripping in oil, Kosher L’Mehadrin, according to the method of increasing each time?  Or, when your child made you crazy and despite that you succeeded in taking responsibility for your feelings and you believed the internal voice of your mature self: “This is my experience”- what do you think about all those types of people who go crazy in front of their mirror and kick it with no mercy?  Or when you danced with great closeness to Hashem and your strengthened yourself in emunah[1] that Hashem is good and everything is for your best, even when you felt difficulty and sorrow- what are you supposed to do when another person is in a lot of pain or sad or shut down or bitter?

Yosef the Tsaddik answers the question for us.

In Parshat Vayeishev we met Yosef, the wondrous Tsaddik who danced in the darkness of Egypt.  There he was, alone, lonely, disconnected and distant from his father’s home surrounded by the impurity of Egypt, imprisoned and subjugated in a completely despairing reality; “Hashem was with Joseph, and he became a successful man” (Genesis, Chapter 39, Verse 2)- ‘he was dancing and skipping’, he lifted himself up from his reality and defeated the darkness of Egypt!

On the other hand, the Torah takes the trouble of describing to us the many times that Yosef cries.

Yosef’s cry when he reveals himself to his brothers still sounds natural and required: “Now Joseph could not restrain himself…He cried in a loud voice.” (Genesis, Chapter 45, Verses 1-2)  However, the matter of Yosef’s crying returns and is emphasized many times, and is not always understandable from first glance: When the brothers reached Egypt for the first time, the verse says: “Then they said to one another, ‘Indeed we are guilty’…He turned away from them and wept.” (Genesis, Chapter 42, Verses 21-24)  When the brothers returned and came back to Egypt with Binyamin:  “Then he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin…Then Joseph rushed because his compassion for his brother had been stirred and he wanted to weep; so he went into the room and wept there.” (Genesis, Chapter 43, Verses 29-30)  Later on, when he reveals himself to his brothers:  “Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept;” (Chapter 45, Verse 14) “He then kissed all his brothers and wept upon them.” (Chapter 45, Verse 15)  Also when Yosef merits to meet his father, Yaakov reads the Shema Yisrael prayer and rather Yosef: “He appeared before him, fell on his neck, and he wept on his neck excessively” (Chapter 46, Verse 29), again he cries.  Even when his brothers come to him with the offer to be his servants: “And Joseph wept when they spoke to him” (Chapter 50, Verse 17), they speak and he cries.

It is strange.

Why on earth are you crying so much?  About what are you crying?  Furthermore, how does this go together with the dancing and skipping?

Behold when you stood, as an alone young man, against the servitude and lowliness and incredible difficulties- you danced, and specifically now, when the story moves toward its good ending and you merit to see you dreams becoming reality- behold, you rule over all the land of Egypt, you have sons and wealth and honor and kingship, and furthermore you merit to reunite with your family after so many years of separation and longing; specifically now you cry so much?!  Why? About what?

If we contemplate the verses we can receive from Yosef the Tsaddik, who merited to traverse the challenges and lift himself up to the awesome level of a Tsaddik who is the foundation of the world, exact and inspiring guidance how to look at the other and how to behave with someone else, even when we are already great Tsaddikim who overcome even the donut and take responsibility and hold on to pure faith that everything is for the best…

Yosef’s crying was not crying for himself.  It was cries of mercy and participation in the sorrow of somebody else.  Cries of giving.

In his darkness he danced, but not in the darkness of others.  When someone else was in pain, when his brothers were embarrassed or suffering or hurting or feeling regret or hitting themselves- then Yosef would cry.  When mercy for his brother Binyamin overcame him- then he cried.  When he met his father who mourned for him many years with endless sorrow- again Yosef cried.

Here he breaks out dancing to a song of faith that everything is for the best… and here he can’t restrain himself from crying so much!  He cries and cries and cries again and can’t restrain himself from crying in front of his brothers!

Yosef learned this exalted crying from his mother and ours, Rachel, whose whole essence was crying for the other, a cry of giving which gave birth to the promise of redemption: “Thus said Hashem: Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment…and your children will return to their border” (Jeremiah, Chapter 31, Verses 15-16), concerning this crying the Midrash says: “Just as Joseph only appeased his brothers through crying, so to Hashem only redeems the Jewish people through crying.” (Midrash Rabah Vayigash 93, 12)

To cry a cry of giving is a tremendous virtue, this is the goal, and in the end the path to the redemption.

[1] Faith

One thought on “Parashat Vayigash

  1. Crying helps us to share the pain of others. It shows we care and pray that the tears will wash away the sadness. Bringing us closer to our friend and to haShem.
    Shabbat Shalom


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