Cry of Mashiach – Vayigash
In parshat Vayigash we read about the dramatic confrontation between the “lion” Yehuda (גור אריה יהודה) and the “ox” Yosef (בכור שורו הדר לו). Rabbeinu Bachyei says there are 3 types of הגשה, “approaching”. The first is for דין, the second is for פיוס and the third is for מלחמה.
According to the Midrash, when Yehuda became angry, there was a hair on his chest that bristled up and became a fearsome weapon. When Yosef accused Binyamin of stealing his cup, Yehuda was enraged and approached Yosef to wage war. Yosef, however, was no walkover. The Midrash says that he delivered a single, mighty blow to his stone throne, which shattered into millions of tiny shards. When Yehuda saw this, he said to himself “Only someone from בית אבא could possess such awesome strength!” and immediately realized that a show of force would be of no avail. So he instead adopted the path of פיוס.
The reason this monumental interaction is so significant is because it is from the descendants of these two iconic figures that the future two Messiahs will emerge, משיח בן יוסף and משיח בן דוד. In this shiur we will explore some interesting common denominators between Yehuda (and his descendant David) and Yosef and try analyze and understand what makes them “Mashiach material”.
The final four parshiyot in sefer Breishit, וישב, מקץ, ויגש, ויחי, while they discuss all the Twelve Tribes in varying degree, are predominantly focused on Yosef. If you analyze the psukkim, you find a very interesting pattern that emerges regarding Yosef’s behavior. Yosef cries a lot !
וַיִּסֹּב מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וַיֵּבְךְּ וַיָּשָׁב אֲלֵהֶם וַיְדַבֵּר אֲלֵהֶם וַיִּקַּח מֵאִתָּם אֶת שִׁמְעוֹן וַיֶּאֱסֹר אֹתוֹ לְעֵינֵיהֶם (בראשית מב, כד).
וַיְמַהֵר יוֹסֵף כִּי נִכְמְרוּ רַחֲמָיו אֶל אָחִיו וַיְבַקֵּשׁ לִבְכּוֹת וַיָּבֹא הַחַדְרָה וַיֵּבְךְּ שָׁמָּה (שם מג, ל).
וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוְּארֵי בִנְיָמִן אָחִיו וַיֵּבְךְּ וּבִנְיָמִן בָּכָה עַל צַוָּארָיו (שם מה, יד).
וַיֶּאְסֹר יוֹסֵף מֶרְכַּבְתּוֹ וַיַּעַל לִקְרַאת יִשְׂרָאֵל אָבִיו גֹּשְׁנָה וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוָּארָיו וַיֵּבְךְּ עַל צַוָּארָיו עוֹד (שם מו, כט).
וַיִּפֹּל יוֹסֵף עַל פְּנֵי אָבִיו וַיֵּבְךְּ עָלָיו וַיִּשַּׁק לוֹ (שם נ, א).
כֹּה תֹאמְרוּ לְיוֹסֵף אָנָּא שָׂא נָא פֶּשַׁע אַחֶיךָ וְחַטָּאתָם כִּי רָעָה גְמָלוּךָ וְעַתָּה שָׂא נָא לְפֶשַׁע עַבְדֵי אֱ-לֹקֵי אָבִיךָ וַיֵּבְךְּ יוֹסֵף בְּדַבְּרָם אֵלָיו (שם נ, יז)
No less than six times the psukkim say verbatim that Yosef cried. He cried in addition to this, but the passuk does not use the word “cry”. However, you can literally “hear” the crying in his voice. Yosef pleads with the שר המשקים to remember him and help extricate him from the pit כִּי גֻנֹּב גֻּנַּבְתִּי מֵאֶרֶץ הָעִבְרִים וְגַם פֹּה לֹא עָשִׂיתִי מְאוּמָה כִּי שָׂמוּ אֹתִי בַּבּוֹר. Although it does not mention it at the time of the event, we learn later what transpired when the brothers threw Yosef into the pit, from their pangs of regret וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל אָחִיו אֲבָל אֲשֵׁמִים אֲנַחְנוּ עַל אָחִינוּ אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ צָרַת נַפְשׁוֹ בְּהִתְחַנְנוֹ אֵלֵינוּ וְלֹא שָׁמָעְנוּ עַל כֵּן בָּאָה אֵלֵינוּ הַצָּרָה הַזֹּאת.
Yosef is constantly crying! We don’t read about Yehuda crying, about Reuven crying, or any of the other tribes – certainly not Shimon and Levi. We do read once about Binyamin crying, in response to Yosef’s crying on his “shoulders” (referring to a vision of the destruction of the Batei Mikdash). Of all the Twelve Tribes, only Yosef and Binyamin cry. This is something they both inherited from their mother Rachel.
If I were to ask you “Which one of the Imahot cried the most?” you would probably answer – Leah! The passuk says וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה רַכּוֹת and Chazal tell us that Leah was constantly crying, so much so that it caused her eyelashes to fall out. We don’t read in the psukkim of Rachel crying much, except once. It is, however, this single mention of Rachel’s crying (that her sons inherited), that gives us an insight into her son Yosef’s penchant to cry.
What was the difference between Leah’s crying and Rachel’s crying?
Leah was weeping for her own personal misfortune. Since their birth, Leah and Rachel, twins, were contracted (by Lavan and his sister Rivka) to marry their cousins, also twins, Eisav and Yaakov. The very thought she would of have to marry a rasha like Eisav caused Leah to continually cry.
Did Rachel cry over her own personal misfortune? Although we don’t read about it in the psukkim, or even in the Midrashim, if you read between the lines, it is almost a given that she did. The Midrashim tell how for seven years Yaakov would send gifts to Rachel. Lavan intercepted them and instead gave them to Leah. Rachel knew this. She knew that her father was plotting to wed her sister Leah to Yaakov in her place. Did this cause her to shed a tear? Almost certainly, probably many tears.
Let us try to imagine Yosef’s childhood (before he was cast into the pit by his brothers and sold to slavery in Egypt).
Yaakov’s favoritism towards Rachel and her son Yosef did not endear him to his siblings born to Leah. Yosef was closer to the sons of Bilha, Dan and Naftali. Yosef’s mother Rachel died when he was only 8 (סדר עולם, פרק ב). Yosef was raised by Bilha (when Yosef had the dream of the sun and the moon bowing down to him, the “moon” was Bilha, who was like a mother to him). It didn’t help that Yosef was constantly receiving prophetic dreams that he was obliged to relate (according to the Mishna, Sanhedrin 11, 5, a נביא who does not relate his prophecy is חייב מיתה בידי שמיים). Leah’s sons ostracized him, hated him (and eventually plotted to kill him). One can only imagine the tense atmosphere in the home of Yaakov that Yosef grew up in. Did Yosef spend many a sleepless night, shedding a tear? probably more than a few.
Aged seventeen, Yosef was set upon by his older siblings, cast into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions and then sold into slavery in Egypt. Did Yosef shed a tear in the pit? We know he did, indirectly from the passuk above אֲשֵׁמִים אֲנַחְנוּ עַל אָחִינוּ אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ צָרַת נַפְשׁוֹ בְּהִתְחַנְנוֹ אֵלֵינוּ וְלֹא שָׁמָעְנו (בראשית מב, כא). When he was shackled by the Midyanite merchants and forced to walk by foot into slavery in Egypt, did Yosef shed a tear? Most probably. When Yosef was falsely accused of sexually assaulting his employer’s wife and thrown into prison, did Yosef spend many a sleepless night bemoaning his misfortune and shedding a tear? Almost certainly, we hear it indirectly in his quavering appeal to the שר המשקים.
However, this is not mentioned in the six psukkim above referring to Yosef’s crying. Yosef’s “official” crying, mentioned verbatim in the psukkim, is not crying over his own personal misfortune. All six psukkim that used the word וַיֵּבְךְּ, refer to a different type of crying. This was not crying over his personal misfortune, but rather a prophetic crying over the future of Am Yisrael. When Yosef hears the remorse in his brothers’ voice it causes Yosef to cry, not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy! for the sincere remorse, the trigger that ignites the spark of reunification of the Twelve Tribes. When Yosef cries on Binyamin’s shoulder and Binyamin cries on his, it is not simply emotion of reuniting with a blood brother, but tears of prophetic sorrow at the destruction of Mishkan Shilo (in Yosef’s territory) and the two Batei Mikdash (in Binyamin’s). When Yosef cries at his father’s deathbed, it is because he prophetically sees the future suffering of Am Yisrael in Egypt and also the “password” for their redemption פקד יפקד. When Yosef cries after his father’s death at the brothers’ fear that he might now take his revenge on them, again it is tears of joy at the culmination of the reunification of the Twelve Tribes all reciting Shma Yisrael and reaffirming their devotion to HKB”H.
Yosef does a lot of personal crying, he had good reason to. However, the crying that is mentioned in the psukkim is not for himself, but for his brothers and for their descendants, Am Yisrael. Binyamin also cries in a similar way. They both inherited it from their mother Rachel.
Rachel certainly had good reason to cry for her own personal misfortune, she had plenty of it in her short life. However the crying of Rachel that the psukkim choose to immortalize are not her personal tears, but tears for her children, for Am Yisrael -
כֹּה אָמַר ה' קוֹל בְּרָמָה נִשְׁמָע נְהִי בְּכִי תַמְרוּרִים רָחֵל מְבַכָּה עַל בָּנֶיהָ מֵאֲנָה לְהִנָּחֵם עַל בָּנֶיהָ כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ (ירמיהו לא, טו).
This is the prerequisite character trait of Mashiach ben Yosef.
Now let us analyze the second Mashiach, descended from Yehuda. Yehuda does not cry, he has a different behavioral pattern.
Why did the brothers plot to kill Yosef? They knew by prophecy that Yehuda was destined to be the tribe of the monarchy in Am Yisrael and when Yosef began having dreams of the brothers bowing down to him, they perceived that Yosef was מורד במלכות. They sat in a בית דין and sentenced him to death.
Yehuda, at that point however, was not already the מלך of the tribes, he only acquired the character traits that would eventually lead to him becoming king, later on. The seeds of it began when Shimon and Levi wanted to kill Yosef on the spot. Yehuda said no! Yehuda agreed with them that he deserved to die, but he had mercy on Yosef. "Let us mitigate his sentence and sell him into slavery, rather than executing him". This is the character trait of a leader, a king. The brothers listened to him, he had that presence, that charisma befitting a king that automatically made him an authority figure. However, that was insufficient, another piece of the puzzle was missing.
Yehuda, after Yosef was sold into slavery in Egypt, fell from grace. He subsequently underwent a miserable period in his life, resulting in the death of his two sons, ער ואונן. We then have the episode with Tamar.
Tamar, Yehuda’s widowed daughter in law, seeing that Yehuda’s third son Sheilah had not been given to her as a husband, takes matters into her own hands, disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with Yehuda. Without getting into the whole discussion of the moral implications of Yehuda sleeping with someone he thought was a prostitute, let’s skip to the end of the story, which, for the purposes of this shiur, is the crux of the matter.
Three months later Tamar is visibly pregnant and since she is not married, is suspected of זנות. Yehuda sits in a בית דין and pronounces her death sentence. Tamar then whips out the staff and seal that Yehuda left with her as collateral for payment לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר אֵלֶּה לּוֹ אָנֹכִי הָרָה וַתֹּאמֶר הַכֶּר נָא לְמִי הַחֹתֶמֶת וְהַפְּתִילִים וְהַמַּטֶּה הָאֵלֶּה.
Yehuda is the אב בית דין, the most important man in town. Suddenly he is implicated in a scandal that rocks the foundations of society. Yehuda could easily get out of it. He could say “Now I remember, four months ago someone broke into my house and stole all the valuables, including my seal and staff”. He could direct the police chief to begin an investigation to find the “thief”, which would turn out to be a dead end, and thus extricate himself from the whole mess. It is his word against Tamar’s. Who are they going to believe, the אב בית דין or someone suspected of adultery?
It is here that Yehuda reveals the second character trait that is prerequisite for a king – admitting error! וַיַּכֵּר יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר צָדְקָה מִמֶּנִּי.
Natural charisma is important for a king, but what give a king his authority and credibility, are the character traits of mercy and truth.
Skipping forward about 600 years….
In a previous shiur on Vayeira, is the story of Yishai and his wife Nitzevet bat Adel. The story has similarities to that of Yehuda and Tamar. Yishai, thinking he was with someone else, in fact slept with his estranged wife Nitzevet, who became pregnant. Yishai, not knowing that he had slept with her, suspected her of adultery and the son born from that union, to be a ממזר. Yishai’s other sons wanted to kill this “illegitimate” son, but Yishai had mercy and instead sent him off to live out in the fields, away from everyone else and tend the family’s flocks.
There are similarities between this unfortunate boy, David and Yosef. Both were shunned by their brothers and both were almost killed, but instead sent into “exile”, Yosef for 22 years (from the time he was sold, to the time he was reunited with Yaakov) and David for 30 years (from his birth to when he was anointed as king).
Spending 30 solitary years out alone in the fields, could easily have caused David to hate his father and brothers. Did David shed any tears during this time, bemoaning his personal misfortune? Probably many, but counter intuitively he forgave his family and bore them no animosity. It was here, in this this solitude that David developed a special relationship with his Creator and was forged into the future king and father of משיח בן דוד.
Later when he became king, David cried on numerous occasions, when he parted from Yehonatan, while being pursued by Shaul, when his rebellious son Avshalom died. These were tears for personal misfortune, not “national” tears, they were tears of Leah, not Rachel. David had a different role and destiny than that of Yosef and tears were not part of it.
David inherited the same attributes of truth and mercy from Yehuda.
After the episode with Bat Sheva, when נתן הנביא rebuked David, David could have acted in his capacity as king and beheaded נתן. Instead he accepted the rebuke and admitted his error. Despite being pursued by his own son Avshalom, David had mercy on him and was filled with remorse for his death. When Shlomo succeeded David as king, David advised him to have mercy on all the people that had wronged David and to deal with them wisely.
These are the prerequisite character traits of Mashiach ben David.
What distinguishes the two Messiahs? What role does each have to play in our redemption?
The arrival of משיח בן יוסף precedes that of משיח בן דוד and the role of משיח בן יוסף is to set the stage for the arrival of משיח בן דוד.
The role of משיח בן יוסף is to cry for and to restore peace in Am Yisrael and subsequently, with the rest of the world. Like Rachel, her son Yosef and משיח בן יוסף, their job is to לבכות על הבנים, to restore the integrity of the Twelve Tribes, to sow peace and reunite Am Yisrael. This peace will then radiate outwards and create peace between Am Yisrael and the nations.
Only on this “fertile ground” can משיח בן דוד appear. The role of משיח בן דוד is to activate HKB”H’s attribute of mercy in order that HKB”H will forgive Am Yisrael’s sins against Him, end the galut and reset the world back to its original state after Creation. To re-establish the truth of the Torah, to answer all the תיק"ו’s in the Gemara, to destroy Amalek, rebuild the Beit Hamikdash and enable us to resume our ultimate relationship with our Creator.
The epic meeting between the two Messiahs occurs in this week’s parsha. The rest of the details appear in the four parshiyot וישב, מקץ ויגש, ויחי and all together set the stage for future events.
What each of us should learn from this on a practical level is to increase our own, personal efforts to emulate the attributes of both משיח בן יוסף and משיח בן דוד.
Instead of continuing to perpetuate the problem, we need to transcend, step outside ourselves for a moment and start becoming part of the solution. We all need to weep and shed endless tears for the abysmal state Am Yisrael is currently in and make a “Yosef”ean (as opposed to a Herculean – lehavdil) effort to forgive any wrong done to us by our brothers and foster reconciliation. We need to restore the integrity of the Twelve Tribes, through remorse for all the wrongs we have done to others and forgiveness for all the wrongs they have done to us. To re-establish peace within Am Yisrael, a peace that will radiate outwards and truly make us a light unto the nations. Even though all the gates may be shut, the Gate of Tears always remains open. We need to cry and cry and implore Hashem to help us to find it in our hearts to forgive, to love and to reunite our nation. We need to do this three times every day (on Shabbat four) in the Amidah while saying שים שלום.
We need to emulate Yehuda and honestly admit our own errors and have mercy on those who erred against us. We need to reacquire a sense of the truth, the truth of Creation, the truth of the Torah, the truth of our destiny as a nation by shutting out the clutter of the yetzer harah and the invasive culture of the goyim and reacquire a love and thirst for our own, authentic culture and heritage.
It begins with small steps, within our own families, with our neighbors, in our communities. With each of us undertaking small additional things that need strengthening, each according to their own inclination. Whether it is increased respect for our parents, our spouses, having a little more kavanah when davening, undertaking to add a little extra limud each day, a halacha or two, a mishna, a page of gemara or mussar, doing a chessed, a random act of kindness, giving a little extra tzedaka – there is an endless list of possibilities.
It begins with small things and builds up to a crescendo that sets the fertile ground for אחישנה, hastening the coming of משיח בן יוסף and משיח בן דוד and HKB”H redeeming us. It’s all up to us. וִיהִי נֹעַם ה' אֱ-לֹקֵינוּ עָלֵינוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנֵהוּ .