Focusing on The Main Thing – Weekly Words of Torah, Vayigash 5774

Insights into Parshat Vayigash by Mr. Itamar Lustiger of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.

“The Main thing, is to keep the main thing the main thing”
-Stephen Covey

The life of a 21st century Jew living in galut is a fascinating and multifaceted existence- exalted and optimistic at times, harrowing and confusing at others. As we strive to truly be a source of light unto the world and Hashem, occasionally negativity seeps in and we find ourselves lost in a dark forest, our lantern flickering precariously in the wind.

As the Kedushat Levi says, whenever one wants to learn about the archetype of a certain event/emotion they should look for the first time it appears in the Torah, and in our Parsha we are met with the first exile, our first galut. The Torah, being the everlasting guide and premier advice book in our lives, offers us a full proof hashkafa one can use throughout the long and sometimes pitch-black galut we find ourselves amidst.

As Yehuda approaches one of the leaders of Egypt, his brother Yosef, he recounts the story, almost verbatim, that occurred up until the present moment. “Adoni Sha’al et avadav lemor ‘Hayesh lachem av o ach.’ Vanomer el adoni ‘Yesh lanu av zaken, veyeld zekunim…’-My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a young child of his old age(44:19-20).” Rav Soloveitchik quoted in the name of his beloved childhood rebbe, a Chabadnik, a simple and novel question: Is the formulation of this pasuk not strange? What did Yosef mean when he asked this question? Of course they have a father! Everyone has a father! Yosef should’ve said “Is your father still alive,” if that’s what he was interested in discovering! It is with this question that the Rav address how one lives in galut…

“Hayesh lachem av- Do you have a father,” was not merely a question that searched for an informative answer, it was a question to the very core, the very soul of the brothers. Yosef understood this was the beginning of a long exile, and it warranted the very important question: “Do you have a father?!” Do you live by his ideals? Do you respect his values? Or are you just a “New generation” more advanced and closed to the wisdom of old. Yosef was asking quite simply: Do you remember where you come from?

This question is not only asked in regards to Ya’akov, but in regards to Hashem as well! Do we, have a Father? Are we connected to Him? Do we keep Hashem at the focus of our lives? The “Main Thing?” It is only with this mentality that we, the shevatim can answer affirmatively: “Yesh lanu av zaken-We have an old (wise) father, Veyeled zekunim katan- and a young, vivacious, outgoing, and optimistic brother.” The brothers understood that the only way they could continue to have a future, to have ketanim, is to look back and understand where they came from. It is with this outlook of the shevatim that we, in the year 5774, can approach galut.

This message is eternally true, and is a profoundly significant outlook on life. It is only when we put Hashem at the forefront, when we place our culture, our history at the focal point that we can beat the galut of yavan, the darkness of our time, and roar with passion when our beliefs and traditions are challenged.