Approaching True Unity
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas VaYigash; 9th of Teives, 5750

1. The names of the different Torah portions express the nature of each of these portions, and include the entire portion within them. This week, the entire portion is characterized by the word "VaYigash" (and he approached.)

We must understand how the name "VaYigash" includes within it all the events mentioned in the portion, among them, the revelation of Yosef to his brothers and the descent of Yaakov and his household to Egypt. Although these events resulted from "VaYigash," Yehuda approaching Yosef, it does not appear that the word "VaYigash" includes those events. In addition, the sale of the Egyptians and their land to Pharaoh, described at the conclusion of the Torah portion, does not appear to have any connection to "VaYigash."

The haftora always presents a theme from the Torah reading of that week. The haftora chosen for Parshas VaYigash expresses the general significance of the name "VaYigash." The haftora relates how in the Messianic age, the kingdom of Yosef will be united with the kingdom of Yehuda. Our Sages explain that both Yehuda and Yosef were kings who represented different spiritual approaches. Their meeting symbolizes a unification of these different approaches. The haftora relates that this will initiate the era when "I will take Yisroel from among the nations...and make of them a single nation… One king will reign over them."

VaYigash represents the oneness of the Jewish people and the oneness that pervades the world at large. It expresses "the great general principle of the Torah: love your fellowman as yourself." VaYigash demonstrates how this unity is expressed, not only as a spiritual concept, but on the level of deed.

Before davening, we state, "I hereby take upon myself the fulfillment of the mitzva, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself.’" It is not sufficient to meditate on this concept. Although saying the words could interrupt a person’s concentration and preparation for prayer, the Alter Rebbe, in his siddur, nevertheless requires the statement to be made.

Instituting this statement before davening is significant, indeed. To explain: From a spiritual perspective, there is nothing revolutionary about the concept of the oneness of the Jewish people, as the Jewish souls are "all fitting, with a single Father. Therefore, all Yisroel are called brothers because of the source of their souls in one G-d... It is [rather] the bodies which separate them." When the soul descends into a physical body, however, factors arise which can separate one Jew from another. This is particularly true in the time of exile, when the Jews are "scattered and dispersed among the nations." Even in the midst of such separation, from a spiritual perspective, the Jews are one and share a single desire — to fulfill
G-d’s will. The mitzva of ahavas Yisroel is intended to establish and express this unity within the world at large. Therefore, it is important to make a verbal statement of this unity. "The movement of one’s lips is considered as deed." This deed leads to other deeds of oneness, e.g., the distribution of tzedaka by the other limbs of the body.

VaYigash represents Jewish unity expressed in the physical world. When Jews unite with ahavas Yisroel, their unity has the potential to bring about even greater blessings than those brought down by the angel Michoel.

This concept applies to the purpose of our service in the world. The entire world is pervaded by Divine oneness. Our task is to recognize and express that oneness. Every particular creation that experiences this unity in our "world of separation" reveals its ultimate purpose, the revelation of and expression of G-d’s glory.

Based on the above, we can understand the connection of VaYigash to the other events mentioned in the Torah portion. The entire portion revolves around the concept of unity, the beginning focusing on the unity of the Jewish people, and the conclusion, on the expression of unity in the world at large.

The meeting between Yehuda and Yosef resulted in a connection between Yosef and his brothers after so many years of separation. This has been the source of the oneness of the Jewish people throughout the centuries, which will reach its fullest expression in the Messianic era. The union between Yehuda and Yosef also represents and brings about unity throughout the world. To quote the Zohar, it brings about "the drawing close of one world to another world to establish oneness between them, uniting the upper world with the lower world."

Unity among the Jewish people (for whose sake the world was created), establishes unity in the world. Thus, first the haftora says, "I will make you into a single nation," and then, "And the nations will know that I am the L-rd...and the L-rd will be King over the entire earth; on that day, the L-rd shall be one and His name, one."

Parshas VaYigash describes the settlement of Yaakov and his descendants in the land of Egypt, morally, the lowest place on the earth. The Torah describes Egypt as "the nakedness of the land" and the Egyptians as "the most depraved of the nations." Their spiritual level was so low that Pharaoh, their king, considered himself a god, saying, "The river is mine for I have made it."

Yaakov and his sons settled in Egypt to elevate the land and to reveal G-d’s oneness there, as stated before, the ultimate revelation of G-d’s oneness comes in the place of division. The potential for this service of refinement comes from VaYigash, the unity established between Yehuda and Yosef.

[Also of significance is Yaakov’s "sending Yehuda before him to show the way," interpreted by our Sages to mean that he sent him to establish a yeshiva, which in turn opened the gateways to the transformation of Egypt into a place of Torah.]

These activities led to VaYechi (and Yaakov lived," interpreted by our Sages to mean that the best years of Yaakov Avinu’s life were spent in Egypt. He and his sons dedicated themselves to Torah study there, thus, transforming the darkness of Egypt into light.

2. The all-inclusive nature of this unity is also accentuated by the conclusion of the Torah portion, which describes Yosef’s acquisition of the Egyptians and their land for Pharaoh. A superficial reading of this portion, however, may lead to an opposite conclusion. But, in truth, this narrative also reflects the expression of the oneness of G-d.

The narrative mentions how Yosef did not buy the lands of the pagan priests. On the surface, it would seem that their idol worship gave them a certain degree of power, which even Yosef had to reckon with. It would, therefore, seem to represent the very opposite of the oneness of G-d. Nevertheless, the service of VaYigash, particularly the contribution of Yehuda, is able to reveal G-d’s oneness even on this plane.

Yehuda represents the service of hodaa, the acknowledgement of G-d with bittul (self-nullification) and mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice). Yehuda nullified himself to Yosef, thus he approached Yosef. Yosef was, — and in the present age, is — the mashpia (source of influence) and Yehuda, the mekabel (recipient). The bittul of Yehuda is what leads to his unity with Yosef.

Yehuda represents "those who serve G-d with their bodies," while Yosef represents "those who serve G-d with their souls." To establish unity between them, Yehuda had to express bittul to Yosef.

This bittul increased Yosef’s power and gave him the potential to reveal
G-d’s oneness completely, breaking the power of the Egyptian idolaters. Yosef alone did not have the power to break through and express G-d’s oneness on this level; only when he joined with Yehuda was this possible.

To interpret these concepts in the realm of our individual service: On the level of Yosef, the level of Torah study, the possibility exists for such a lack of bittul that a person feels self-important. The approach of Yehuda, the level of deed, on the contrary, involves pushing oneself against one’s nature with bittul and self-sacrifice. The person does not feel his individual identity at all. He is totally absorbed in carrying out the deed he was commanded to perform.

Thus, Yehuda introduces the potential for Yosef to experience this complete level of bittul as well, to study Torah lishma (for G-d’s sake) with self-sacrifice. This perspective sees no external goals for Torah study, not even the attainment of a portion in the World to Come. Rather, one studies out of love, "because one’s soul is bound up in the love of G-d and is totally obsessed with it."

This point is implied in Yaakov’s sending Yehuda to establish a house of study. Although study is the realm of Yosef, in order for Torah study to transform Egypt into a place of Torah, to break the barriers of Egyptian paganism, the influence of Yehuda is necessary. His bittul provides the power to reveal G-d’s oneness.

Thus, in the Messianic age, Yehuda will be on a higher plane than Yosef, as the haftora states, "And my servant Dovid [from the tribe of Yehuda] will be the nasi over them forever." The bittul of Yehuda emanates from the essence of the soul. Hence, when the ultimate unity between Yehuda and Yosef will be established, Yehuda will be on the highest level. This, in turn, will facilitate the revelation of G-d’s oneness in a complete manner. "The deeds of the patriarchs are a sign to their descendants." The unity caused by Yaakov’s settling in Egypt generated the potential for his descendants, the Jewish people of subsequent generations, to express G-d’s oneness within the boundaries and limitations of the world, even in the time of exile. This has been the ultimate goal of the service of the Jewish people throughout the centuries.

Thus, the first step in ending the exile is spreading unity among the Jewish people. This point is emphasized in the Haftora, which, as mentioned above, relates how the establishment of unity among the Jewish people will lead to the end of the exile and ultimately, to the spreading of the knowledge of G-d throughout the world.

In this context, we can understand the progression in the weekly Torah portions. VaYigash, the complete expression of unity despite the exile, leads to VaYechi, a Jew’s full expression of life in the last moments of exile, true life that permeates every aspect of one’s being. This process leads to eternal life, as our Sages state, "Our Patriarch, Yaakov, did not die." Eternal life will be realized in the Messianic redemption, associated with the book of Shmos, the book which relates the story of the redemption of the Jews.

These concepts reflect eternal spiritual truths that are particularly relevant in the present generation, when "all the appointed times for Moshiach’s coming have passed." According to all the signs mentioned by our Sages, the Messianic Redemption should have come already. The Rebbe Rayatz declared that all that is necessary is to "polish the buttons and stand prepared to greet Moshiach." Since that declaration was made many years ago, we can conclude that this service has been completed already and in the very near future, Moshiach will come.

Therefore, at this time, there must be a greater stress on the establishment of unity among the Jewish people and the spreading of unity in the world by encouraging the observance of the seven universal laws given to Noach and his descendants.

Additional emphasis on the above comes this year, the fortieth year after the Rebbe Rayatz’s passing, when G-d grants us, "a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear," enabling us to "attain the wisdom of one’s teacher" in all matters associated with the Rebbe Rayatz.

Significantly, VaYigash, Yehuda’s approach towards Yosef, took place in the fortieth year of Yosef’s life. This emphasizes the importance of spreading unity — among the Jews and in the world at large — in the present era. We must dedicate ourselves to directing our thought, speech, and action to Jewish unity. On a simple level, when Jews gather together (e.g., as Yehuda approached Yosef), their meeting must generate benefit for another Jew (as the above meeting benefited Binyomin). The effects of this activity will not be self-contained, but will ultimately bring about good for the entire people (as that meeting benefited all the brothers).

Jews are frequently categorized into two groupings: Yisachar, students of Torah, and Z’vulun, businessmen who are involved in the performance of good deeds. The divisions between these categories must be nullified. Students of Torah must occupy themselves with deeds of kindness, as our Sages declared, "Whoever says, ‘All I have is Torah,’ does not even have Torah." They must increase in tzedaka, giving freely and generously. And the businessmen must steal time from their occupation to study Torah.

In the previous generations, each person was predominantly occupied with a particular emphasis in his service. These categories, however, never represented a totally rigid division. In the present age, to complete the final preparations for the Redemption, any distinctions have to be further nullified. Businessmen have to establish many times for Torah study until their efforts parallel those of Torah scholars. Similarly, Torah scholars must give to charity over and above their limits, as do businessmen.

The unity brought about through these efforts will have an effect in the world at large and hasten the establishment of Jewish unity in all places. Then, we will proceed, "with our sons and daughters," the entire Jewish people together, as we leave the exile in the ultimate and complete Redemption.


Unity among the Jewish people establishes unity in the world.





A Jew’s full expression of life in the last moments of exile, true life that permeates every aspect of one’s being...leads to eternal life.


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