Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha



Larchmont Temple—Har Chayim

The 19th-20th Century American Jewish Adventure: History Lessons for 21st Century Jewish Life


VaYigash…Genesis 45:9-13…46:28-47:6



WHAT does Joseph’s approach in settling his brothers/father in Egypt

teach us about the challenge of living our lives here as ‘Israel’ today?  




REMEZ…“Casting aside old paradigms, they transformed their faith, reinventing [American] Judaism in an attempt to make it…more meaningful, more sensitive to the concerns of the day.” [J. SARNA]

45:9-10  Hurry,  go up to my father and say: God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me without delay. You will dwell in the

region of Goshen, where you will be near me, you and your children and your grandchildren

RASHI“v-alu—go up,” rather than “u’lchu,” for the Land of Israel is the highest of all lands.[cf Deut 17:8]

RAMBAN…Joseph knew his father would not consent to reside in the Egyptian capital, a center of idolatry.

SARNA…Although no source defines the precise geographic location of Goshen, the cumulative effect of various

pieces of evidence places it in the area of Wadi Tumeilat, which stretches from the eastern arm of the Nile to the Great Bitter Lake…Goshen is blessed with excellent grazing facilities, and it is known that the Nile Delta was the center of cattle breeding.  The natural route from Asia to Egypt emerges from the Wadi Tumeilat, and Joseph traveled to Goshen to greet his father…thus, it could not have been too distant from the Egyptian frontier.  The route of the exodus from Goshen, where the Israelites were still living hundreds of years later [Exod 8:18] also shows that it could not have

been too far from the border.

PIRKEI D’Rebbe ELIZER… Without hesitation Joseph was able to assign his family this province for

he knew that Pharaoh would agree, since one of the Egyptian rulers predecessors had given it to Sarah as a

gift in perpetuity after she had been wrongfully abducted.

ABARVANEL“karov ay-lai—near to me…”  It is as if to say, ‘Though my position in government

forces me to live in the metropolis, at least you will be near enough for me to look after you.’

ALSHECH“karov ay-lai—near to me…”  Lest father think he would be far away from me, you must assure him ki karov ay-lai…He tells his brothers to emphasize he speaks to them as an equal—karov, not through an interpreter, [as it says in v.13] “ki pi ha-m’daber—for my mouth is speaking,” i.e. I speak still in Hebrew!  In spite of all the honor and glory I enjoy in Egypt, tell father—I am still “karov ay-lav”

46:28  He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to point the way before him to Goshen…

RASHI“l’horot l’fanav—to instruct ahead of him”  This is to be understood as ONKELOS renders,

to clear a place for him [void of idols] and instruct how he will settle in it.  And an Aggadic Midrash

explains “l’horot”—to establish for Jacob a House of Instruction from which Torah shall go forth [Tanchuma]

RADAK…  To ask Joseph to take them directly to Goshen so they could avoid the rest of Egypt.

46:29  Joseph harnessed his own chariot and went to meet his father in Goshen. He appeared before him, fell on his neck and wept exceedingly

RASHI… Joseph fell on his father’s neck, continuously weeping, but Jacob did not fall on Joseph’s neck,

nor did he weep, as our Sages teach, for he was reciting the Shema. [PARDES YOSEF]

RAMBAN…  “vayera eylav—he appeared before him,”  and only then did Jacob recognize his son,

whereupon he fell on his son Joseph’s neck and wept, as he’d done every day for the last 20 years.

46:31ff  And Joseph said to his brothers & his father’s household, I will go up and tell the news to Pharaoh saying: My father’s household has come to Egypt.  The men are shepherds. They’ve always been breeders of livestock, and they’ve brought their flocks.  So when Pharaoh summons you & asks: What is your occupation? You shall answer: We’ve been cattlemen from our youth till now. Thus may you stay in Goshen, for shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians

MALBIM…  Joseph chose his words carefully, even taking the initiative to inform Pharaoh that his brothers were shepherds, thus would he have them settle in the out-of-the-way region of Goshen.

AKEDAT YITSCHAK…Joseph coached them so they would not flounder.  They could not categorically refuse to enter Pharaoh’s service, but their response was calculated to make them seem unqualified… RAMBAN…   Joseph described them to Pharaoh in an honorable way, emphasizing not that they tended other’s sheep, but had their own flocks & herds…They were men of esteem and means…

HaEMEK DAVAR…   And since you are shepherds, Pharaoh will not settle you near the populace.  Joseph contrived it so that they’d live apart, though it involved degrading his family in Pharaoh’s eyes.  It was worth sacrificing honor to ensure the preservation of Israel’s name…

47:3-4  They answered Pharaoh: We your servants are shepherds, as were our fathers as well.  We’ve come to sojourn in this land, for there is no pasture for your servants flocks…

RAMBAN“la-gur”  We’ve come temporarily, forced by famine to leave our home, but we will return

HIRSCH…  Notwithstanding Joseph’s instruction, they came right out, unashamed.  But note, they

responded in the singular: “Ro’eh Tson Avadecha…” We belong to the shepherd class; it is who we are.

47:6  The land of Egypt is before you.  Settle your father & your brothers in the best of the land—let them stay in the region of Goshen…

RAMBAN“hoshav”—Provide them with everything they need: houses, fields, vineyards.

Settle them so they feel as any Egyptian citizen who resides in Goshen.

HIRSCH…  “v’Im Yadata”—Not “if you know,” but ‘if you wish to know…’  You may prefer that your brothers not become government officials.  Pharaoh himself gave Joseph an excuse to free them from royal service.






D’RASH…   “ In a creative process of collective self-fashioning, Jews reinterpreted their own culture

and history to fit the circumstances of American Jewish life.” [B. WENGER]

from Larchmont Temple News, December, 1956





SOD   “ Imagine, the wonders of America.  To begin with, there’s the land.  Its flowing with milk & honey.  People make heaps of money, they make fortunes, they literally scoop up gold!  And business is so good, it makes you dizzy.  You can do anything you want!  If you want a factory, you set up a factory.  If you feel like opening a little store, you open a little store.  And the size of the cities!  The width of the streets!…”                                                                                                                          “That’s all very well…but tell me: Don’t people die in America, just like here?  Or do they live on and on?”                                     “Of course they die, but the way they die—that’s what’s wonderful!”

[SHOLOM ALEICHEM, from Beryl Isaac and the Wonders of America]


Dr. RON BRAUNER…                                  


…I am grateful for the existence of Christmas and I believe it is one of the most far-reaching contributions the Christian world could ever make to contemporary American Judaism…

As life in the velvet diaspora continues to offer us its pleasures,  only infrequently are we prodded into questioning the substance of our own identity.  Choosing to live in a non-Jewish world means that we will inevitably lose some of our people to assimilation…Choosing to

live in a non-Jewish world means that there will be incessant pressures on us to become homogenized…Choosing to live in a non-Jewish world means we have to make decisions about what we do, which impact who we are…We have to decide what in our lives and our values is   not negotiable as we make the accommodations necessary for living in that world…For us, as Jews, it is a wonderful time to contemplate and consider our tradition’s message that God does not have a Son, but that all of us are God’s children….Choosing to live in a non-Jewish world means that we recognize our right—and their right—to be different…just as we acknowledge one does not have to be Jewish to be a mensch…


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