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News and Notes

The entire yeshiva wishes heartfelt condolences to the Gebler family, including our alumni Avishai and Akiva, on the tragic loss of their mother Claire a"h this week. The family is sitting shiva in Sharon, MA. המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבילי ציון וירושלים.

We wish mazal tov to Shy Wasserman on his engagement to Ariella Wolfson! שתזכו לבנות בית נאמן בישראל!

This week, after Chanukah break, the yeshiva had additional Chanukah programs instead of regular shiurim. On Tuesday night, the Northeast U.S. team won the Lord Squishy Memorial Cup in our annual Chanukah Jeopardy! competition. On Wednesday, we had our first annual Yesodei Olympiada, which took place at nearby Aviezer field and at the yeshiva. (To see a photo gallery of all of our Chanukah programs, including videos from the Yosef Karduner concert, go to the Yesodei HaTorah Prospective Students 2015-16 page at https://www.facebook.com/yesodeiprospective)

On Thursday night, Rav Wolicki gave the sicha ruchanit on the topic of, "The Importance of Suffering". Following the mishmar cholent and snacks, Rav Wolicki spoke about, "Understanding the Concept of 'Yeridat Hadorot'", and Rav Kahn gave a shiur entitled, "Twas the Night After Nitel: December 25th in Minhag, Hashkafa, and Halacha" (download here).

This Shabbat is an in-Shabbat, hosted by Rav Kahn and his family. In addition to joining the yeshiva for the Carlebach-style davening and the delicious meals, Rav Kahn will give several shiurim and divrei Torah, including, "The Hidden Source of Faith", "The Secret and Shocking Source of the Fast of the Ninth of Tevet", and "The Road to the Unknown". The oneg will take place on Friday night at the home of our av and eim bayit, Avi and Erika Mandel, right next to the yeshiva. If you are in Beit Shemesh for Shabbat, please feel free to join us!

5 Tevet 5775
Rabbi Scott Kahn

The Bittersweet Reunion
By Rabbi Scott Kahn

There are two emotional reunions in Parshat Vayigash. Both of them are shocking.

The first is Yosef’s reunion with his brothers, after he has revealed his true identity to them. Before kissing his older brothers, Yosef “fell on the neck of his brother Binyamin and wept, and Binyamin wept on [Yosef’s] neck.” Rashi explains that these were tears of sadness, not joy: Yosef was crying over the two Batei Mikdash that were located in the Tribe of Binyamin’s territory and which would be destroyed, while Binyamin was crying over the Mishkan in Shiloh – Yosef’s territory – which would be destroyed, as well. Why, according to Rashi, do Yosef and Binyamin cry over these future destructions at the moment of their joyful reunion?

The second emotional reunion occurs when Yaakov sees Yosef for the first time in twenty two years. While Yosef falls on Yaakov’s neck, Yaakov appears curiously impassive. Rashi explains that Yaakov was quiet, as he was reciting Kriyat Shma. After mourning his son for so many years, why is Yaakov saying the Shma at the exact moment that we would expect him to be emotionally greeting his long lost son?

The answer can be found by understanding that the Mishkan (and, later, the Beit HaMikdash) were not mere “temples”, but instead represented the meeting point between heaven and earth, between G-d and man. Indeed, the Torah introduces the concept of a Mishkan in Parashat Terumah with the words, “They should make a Sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” The Mishkan is the spot at which the Holy One most obviously establishes a close relationship with the Holy People. The destruction of that place symbolizes the severing of that close relationship. As long as the Beit HaMikdash remains in ruins, we remain, on some level, distant from Hashem. Exile, more than physical dispersion, is the state of being distant from G-d.

When Yosef and Binyamin were reunited, they recognized, amid their happiness, the fleeting nature of such reunions in an unredeemed world; for every individual must ultimately part from his loved ones when his life comes to a close. Every reunion is temporary, and each individual will ultimately make his final journey alone. This may have been best symbolized by Yaakov’s initial meeting with his beloved Rachel. There, too, Rashi explains that Yaakov cried because he knew, through divine inspiration, that they would not be buried together. Even as Yaakov prepared to begin a life together with Rachel, he knew that in death they would be firmly and absolutely separated.

Yosef and Binyamin had experienced exile from each other for twenty two years, and knew that they would experience it again. For just as the Jewish People are thrown into exile, so, too, is every human relationship temporary. For this reason, they cried over the destruction of the Mishkan and the Batei Mikdash; for those symbols of exile represent the ultimate reality of all human relationships.

Yaakov, however, did not cry upon seeing Yosef; instead, he recited Kriyat Shma. Rashi elsewhere tells us that the phrase “Hashem Echad” – G-d is One – in the Shma symbolizes the ultimate future, when the entire world recognizes G-d’s unity and the reality that He is the only true existence. Shma is a vision of the universe as it can and will be, not as it is. By witnessing a future he had all but despaired of seeing – the reunion with his beloved Yosef – Yaakov understood that beyond the ebb and flow of our relationship with Hashem lies the ultimate future, when our relationship with G-d will be perfect and everlasting. Relationships in the here and now are fleeting; death and exile are the inevitable interruptions. But in seeing his “dead” son come to life, Yaakov internalized the hope that lies beyond this world, in a redeemed world that transcends death, and in which our relationships with G-d and with each other are permanent.

Yaakov had no reason to mourn, for he had reached the spiritual level at which could view the future beyond the future, the redeemed future in which that which was temporarily severed is permanently repaired. When Yaakov saw Yosef, he recited the Shma, for he was experiencing a taste of the final redemption.

May we all merit to witness and experience the ultimate future, when our relationship with Hashem will be repaired, when our relationships with people will be perfect, when death and sadness will be permanently eliminated from the world, and when all mankind will be reunited into “one assembly, to do Your will with a full heart.”

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