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Vayiggash

Year 3 Genesis 46:28-47:27 (Plaut p 293; Hertz p 174)
Haftarah Ezekiel 37:15-28 (Plaut p 302; Hertz p 178)

The great re-union of Joseph and his aged father Jacob/Israel lead to a welcome for all of Bet Yisraeil—the House of Jacob/Israel—as part of the empire of Pharaoh. The first meeting of patriarch and King leads to blessing. Nonetheless, Joseph will lead the way through the years of drought that follows to an economic conquest of all Egypt and Canaan, too. Holding a virtual monopoly on the stores of grain, the centralization of power for Pharaoh occurs in course. Money, land, and rights all pass to the King and lands are pacified.

Over generations, there have been many conquests of peoples in different areas of the world. Often these have been perpetrated through military force. More subtle have been the economic conquests based in human necessity and nefarious plotting. Modern schemes like those of Stalin and the USSR whose goal was a central power and elimination of private land ownership fell to incapacity and blinding corruption.

The narrative of Torah serves to set the stage for the later developments that haunt the Book of Exodus: the new Pharaoh, who no longer is indebted to Joseph, is transformed to the oppressor whom God will ultimately defeat. The descendants of Jacob, who have come under Joseph’s power and authority, will suffer greatly in the process. For medieval Ashkenazic Jewry who found their way from the Rhine in the west to Poland in the east at the invitation of early Polish kings, and who served as those king’s trusted advisors and administrators, later history is filled with similar destinies and abuses.

Reviewing these repeated historical patterns and the repeated negative outcomes for Jews and for the world, the classic text of Torah stands as clear calls for justice, avoidance of corruption and moral decisiveness.

Rabbi Robert Jacobs