There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
The focus of this “Aliyah by Aliyah” will be the second aliyah of the Torah Portion: Vayigash: Genesis 44:18-47:27
Aliyah 2 – Genesis 44:31-45:7
Genesis 44:31 when he sees that the boy isn’t with us, he will die; and your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sh’ol with grief.
Sheol is the Grave. The Torah is so focused on life that it is difficult to derive a working theory of an afterlife from it. This line could be mistranslated to say that Jacob will be sent to “hell” with grief.
Genesis 44:32 For your servant himself guaranteed his safety; I said, ‘If I fail to bring him to you, then I will bear the blame before my father forever.’
Traditional Jewish commentary which holds a belief in the afterlife (Olam HaBa, literally “the World to Come”) says that Judah had offered to give up his place in the World to Come if he failed to protect Benjamin.
Genesis 44:33 Therefore, I beg you, let your servant stay as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go up with his brothers.
The love and sacrifice Judah is showing for his Father’s favored brother is a beautiful and potent reversal of what happened with Joseph.
Genesis 44:34 For how can I go up to my father if the boy isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father so overwhelmed by anguish.”
One could uncharitbaly say that Judah did this for himslef, but he shows tremendous love and concern for his Father, even if it isn’t directly said that he loves Benjamin and will act for his sake. Does that distinction matter?
Genesis 45:1 At last Yosef could no longer control his feelings in front of his attendants and cried, “Get everybody away from me!” So no one else was with him when Yosef revealed to his brothers who he was.
Why is it important that Joseph was alone with his brothers when he revealed himself? Is this a prophetic clue about the future?
Genesis 45:2 He wept aloud, and the Egyptians heard, and Pharaoh’s household heard.
Why is it important to mention how severe and loud his weeping was?
Genesis 45:3 Yosef said to his brothers, “I am Yosef! Is it true that my father is still alive?” His brothers couldn’t answer him, they were so dumbfounded at seeing him.
It seems that Yosef still lacked some trust in his brothers. Did he not believe them earlier when they said Jacob still lived?
Genesis 45:4 Yosef said to his brothers, “Please! Come closer.” And they came closer. He said, “I am Yosef, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
It is interesting that he says they sold him into Egypt when they didn’t do it fully or with that specific intent, but they did start the chain of events. Is that a moral warning to be careful of our actions?
Genesis 45:5 But don’t be sad that you sold me into slavery here or angry at yourselves, because it was G-d who sent me ahead of you to preserve life.
Even though their intention was evil, Joseph does not hold it against them because it was part of the Almighty’s plan.
Genesis 45:6 The famine has been over the land for the last two years, and for yet another five years there will be neither plowing nor harvest.
I wonder how long the whole back and forth ideal took.
Genesis 45:7 G-d sent me ahead of you to ensure that you will have descendants on earth and to save your lives in a great deliverance.
Somehow Joseph’s suffering was for the sake of the Children of Israel, to bless than and save them.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
1. Does Heaven Matter?
2. Is Hell Jewish?
3. Who Does Judah Love?
That concludes my journey through Vayigash for the year 5783.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.