Thursday, December 25, 2014

Parsha: Yaakov and Yosef’s Reunion: Why Does Only One of Them Cry?

Rav Turetsky

Yaakov had a hard time coping with the loss of Yosef. Yosef was his favorite child, and he undoubtedly experienced tremendous pain and sorrow when Yosef disappeared. Finally, after many years of believing Yosef was dead, Yaakov learns that Yosef is alive and that he will be reunited with his son once again. One can certainly assume that Yosef also felt very close to his father and shared a close bond with Yaakov. Reuniting with Yaakov would presumably be an incredibly emotional experience for Yosef as well.

Yet, the Torah’s description of their emotional embrace is most perplexing (Breishit 46:29). It seems from the pasuk that only one of them really embraced the other and cried, while the other remained silent and passive. The Torah uses no names but rather leaves the identity of each somewhat ambiguous. Who cried and who chose to remain silent?

1. Ramban (ad loc) writes that Yaakov is the one who cried. He explains that a parent like Yaakov would be much more likely to have a strong emotional reaction than his children, especially one like Yosef who was a ruler of Egypt.
While not entirely clear why Yosef was not similarly moved,[1] Ramban’s understanding certainly reminds us of an important idea. Yaakov cried because of the intense emotional connection he had with Yosef, something shared by almost all parents. Sometimes it is hard for children (of any age) to properly appreciate their parents’ emotional connection to them. Yaakov’s reaction reminds us of the need to recognize our parents, love and commitment to us and treat them accordingly and with much sensitivity.

2. Rashi (ad loc) cites Chazal’s well-known comment.  Yosef emotionally embraced Yaakov, but Yaakov did not embrace or kiss his son. According to Chazal, Yaakov was busy reciting Keriat Shemah.

Many are bothered by this comment of Chazal. Was there no better time to recite Keriat Shemah than the moment he was reunited with his son? While various interpretations are offered,[2] some offer a simple and powerful idea.[3] Yaakov loved Yosef so much. At that moment, he was so inspired by positive emotions and thanksgiving towards Hashem for allowing them to reunite. He recognized in the moment of intense joy that God played a role in their ability to see each other once more.

Maharal’s approach highlights an important idea. B”H many are blessed with wonderful events that occur in their lives. Yaakov’s capacity to recognize Hashem in that time of happiness reminds us of the critical need to be aware of what God does for us.

May we be Zoche to appreciate our loved one and the role that Hashem plays in our lives.

Shabbat Shalom!

[1] At one point, Ramban even writes that it would have been disrespectful for Yosef to have embraced Yaakov in the way it was described in the pasuk
[2] For a unique approach, see Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s commentary on Chumash

[3] Maharal in Gur Aryeh (ad loc).

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