Thursday, December 24, 2009

Parashat VaYigash: Pharoah's Wagons

"And Jacob saw the wagons that Joseph sent to carry him; and the spirit of Jacob their father was revived" (Gen. 45:27).

Jacob's sons had already informed their father that Joseph was alive and that he ruled over Egypt. Still, Jacob was unable to respond to the wonderful news, "for he could not believe them."

What was it about seeing the Egyptian wagons that finally revived Jacob's spirits?

The New Rabbi

A wealthy Sephardic community looked far and wide for a rabbi qualified to lead their community. In the end, they decided to appoint an Ashkenazi rabbi, due to his outstanding piety and wisdom.

However, many members of this proud community were concerned about the appointment. They feared that the arrival of Ashkenazi Jews would bring about major changes in their town and its ancient traditions. Therefore the community stipulated that the new rabbi would not bring his older children with him. Only the younger children who still lived at home would be welcome.

When the town hired a wagon to bring the new rabbi and his family, they did not chose a large, fancy carriage as befitting the wealth and honor of the community. Rather, they sent a small wagon, just big enough to seat the rabbi and his younger children. They dared not send a larger, more extravagant carriage, so as not to encourage the older sons and other relatives to move to their town.

Pharaoh's Invitation

When Jacob heard that Pharaoh had invited Joseph's family to come to Egypt, he was unsure of the sincerity of the invitation. Did Pharaoh only intend to please Joseph? Or did Pharaoh truly want Jacob's entire family to join him in Egypt? "His heart stopped, for he could not believe them."

But when Jacob saw the many large wagons that Pharaoh sent, he understood that the entire family was truly welcome to join Joseph in Egypt. "He saw the wagons... and Jacob's spirit was revived."

(Adapted from Mishlei Yaakov, pp. 99-100)