Parashat Vayigash & the Fast of the 10th of Tebet
Rabbi Raymond Beyda
"He then kissed all his brothers and wept upon them" [Beresheet 45:15]
The climax of the intrigue woven through the series of parashiyot [weekly
Torah portions] that tell of the story of Yosef and his brothers, is the
emotion packed scene when Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers with
the words," I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" The brother's initial
shock and fear was relieved by the gentle words of consolation that Yosef
offered. Yosef kissed his brothers and cried.
Why did Yosef cry? At a time of success the emotion should have been joyful
laughter. Why didn't the brothers shed any tears? The behavior needs
When his brothers sold Yosef into slavery, he was ripped away from the life
of spiritual purity that all enjoyed in the house of Yaakob, and in
contrast was cast into the land of Egypt -- a place steeped in immorality
and vice. In the beginning it certainly was difficult for him, however,
with the passage of time, as is human nature, he was able to adapt to the
environment. He was a dot of purity in an ocean of impurity -- but he made
the best of the situation. When naming his firstborn, he himself
testified, "G-d made me forget all my hardship and all my father's
household." (Beresheet41: 51).
And so the years passed until his brothers came to Egypt. When Yosef was
confronted by the holiness of the house of Yaakob he realized the stark
contrast to the spiritually empty existence he was suffering in Egypt. The
tears began to flow over all that he was lacking and all that he had missed
during his long exile. The brothers, on the other hand, had just recovered
their lost brother and felt only feelings of joy -- not tears.
The Ktav Sofer, zt'l, writes that the principle of "What happened to our
patriarchs is a portend for the future generations" may be applied here.
While we suffer in this long exile we do not have a concept of the
suffering we are experiencing. The human faculty that allows one to adapt
to any situation has numbed our spiritual sensitivity. Our attachment to
physical pleasures and our pursuit of our desires distract us from the pain
of exile. We have grown accustomed to the situation. When the redemption
comes -- may it be speedily and in our days -- our blindness to
spirituality will be cured and we will realize all that we are missing in
our centuries of exile. We will burst into tears -- tears of mourning over
the past -- over time wasted in delusion because of our failure to meet the
standards Hashem demands of us. May we all work towards lives of Kedushah --
holiness -- through learning of Torah and adherence to the misvot so that
we may bring the geulah -- redemption -- amen.
The 10th of Tebet is a fast day on which we say additional selihot in our
prayers in order to remember the sad events that took place in the Temple
Era during this time of year. Tzidkiyahu, the last king from the family of
King David ruled over the Kingdom of Yehudah. The Temple stood in its glory
in Yerushalayim, a bustling metropolis full of an active populous.
Yirmiyahu, the prophet, went from place to place throughout the city
begging people to make repentance and return Kedusha -- holiness -- to
their lives. He said that if the people refused to heed Hashem's warnings -- the results would be disastrous. The people ignored the holy messenger and
some even made fun of him. Nevuzardan, a high officer of King
Nebuchadnezar, came with many battalions and laid siege to our holy
capital. The siege began on the 10th of Tebet and resulted in the
destruction of the Bet Hamikdash 2 1/2 years later.
The purpose of fasting almost 2500 years after the events of the
destruction took place is to awaken our hearts today to repentance. Our
sages teach that anyone who lives at a time when there is no Bet Hamikdash
must realize that had he or she lived when the Temple stood that his or her
behavior would contribute to its destruction. Should we mend our ways and
remove from our lives the behavior that brings destruction we will bring
about the construction of the third Temple -- the one that will never be
destroyed -- and the coming of Mashiah speedily in our days. May we all
spend the day productively contributing to that end -- Amen.
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org