The Right Size Portion
By Rabbi Label Lam
And they went up from Egypt, and they came to the land of Canaan to their
father Yaakov. They told him, saying," Yosef is still alive. He is the ruler
of all the land of Egypt." His heart stood still. He could not believe them.
They told him all the words of Yosef which he had spoken to them, and he saw
the wagons that Yosef had sent to carry him and then the spirit of their
father Yaakov was revived. (Breishis 45:25 – 27)
His heart stood still: His heart changed and he ceased believing them. His
heart was not swayed by their words. (Rashi)
All of Yosef’s words: Yosef gave them a sign – the subject that he was
studying at the time he left Yaakov was the subject of “Agal Arufa” (About
the neck of a calf)... This is alluded to by the wagons which are called
This little piece of hidden information revived Yaakov. Why did Yosef only
hint to his father Yaakov by sending him a wagon? Why did he not tell him
out right that he remembered well their last conversations in learning? We
know that Yosef wanted his father to understand that even though he had been
stuck deep in the heart of Egypt for so long he remained at Tzadik, a
By referring to the last subject they had discussed Yosef was signaling to
his father that he had not lost that connection to Torah learning. Not only
was he alive physically, as the ruler of Egypt, but he was spiritually
intact as well. That's all great! Again, why would he only hint to the
message by sending a wagon to carry him? Why not just tell him directly?
There is a story that's told about a preacher who when he stood up to
address his flock discovered one lone congregant. Looking out at all the
sparse attendance the preacher shrugged his shoulders and announced to the
farmer," I guess we’ll have no speech today!"
The farmer responded by telling the preacher," Pardon me for saying, sir,
but if I went out into the field and found only one lonesome horse to feed,
you think I wouldn't feed that horse!?” Inspired by the farmer’s words the
preacher let forth an hour long - fire and brimstone discourse just as if
there were throngs jamming the room. When he was finished, the preacher
looked up at the farmer with a deep feeling of satisfaction and in search of
reaction. The farmer glared glibly and said again," pardon me for saying
Sir, but if I went out into the field and found only one lonesome horse to
feed, you think I would give him the whole truck filled with hay?!"
The verse tells us, "Yosef provided for his father, and his brothers, and
all of his father's household with bread, according to the needs of the
children." Yosef was masterful at catering to each individual’s needs in
spite of the fact that he was responsible for feeding all of mankind, as
Egypt had become the bread basket of the whole world. He arranged for his
family during the time of the famine, in advance of their arrival to settle
them in the land of Goshen. Yosef was a genius in dealing with each person,
from the powerful Pharaoh to the poorest peasant.
Maybe Yosef was sending to his father, in addition to the notion that he
had not forgotten his learning is that he had not lost his sensitivity to
people and to Chochmah-wisdom. The sages say," A hint is good enough to wise
person." In a sense Yosef was winking to his father by offering a more
subtle message. He was telling him that not only had he not lost what he had
learned, but he had not lapsed how to learn and how to properly teach.
The Talmud says that a person should always teach in the most cogent
fashion. Perhaps Yosef wanted to convey his with a proper sense of
proportion- an economy of style that whether for physical needs or spiritual
demands, in one package, he could deliver the right size portion.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.