Vayigash 5777


(ויכלכל יוסף את אביו ואת אחיו…לחם (בראשית מז:יב

Yosef sustained his father and his mother… with bread (Bereishis 47:12)

(וינהלם בלחם (בראשית מז:יז

He provided them with bread (Bereishis 47:17)

In the year 1948, during the war of independence, Reb Zalman Sorotzkin, the head of the Vaad HaYeshivos, traveled to the United States to collect money for the Yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael. A meeting was set up with “The Joint Distribution Committee,” an organization that helped the Yeshivos financially but was not necessarily in line with the same ideals as the Yeshiva leaders. During the meeting, the “Joint” officers began to assert their opinions regarding how the Yeshivos should be run. After all, since they are the ones providing the financial support, don’t they deserve a say in the matter? They “suggested” incorporating secular studies into the curriculum and having the Yeshivos stress showing loyalty to the newly-formed State of Israel.
For Reb Zalman, this was not an option. The meeting took place during the week of Parshas Vayigash. He got up to speak and delivered a powerful address. There is an interesting variation, he said, in the Torah’s description of two seemingly similar actions. In regards to Yosef feeding his family in Egypt during the years of famine, the language used is ויכלכל, and Yosef “sustained” them with bread. However, when describing Yosef’s feeding of the Egyptians, the wording used is וינהלם בלחם, and he “led” them with bread. What is the reason for this change in description? What is the meaning of “leading with bread?”
We see from here, Reb Zalman explained, a fundamental difference in how “brothers” approach supporting their family, versus how one sustains a “stranger.” You feed relatives without any requests or demands. It’s a no-strings-attached policy. My brother is in need of bread; bread is given. Therefore, the term ויכלכל is used. Yosef merely sustained them. When feeding someone with whom there is no personal connection, then conditions do accompany the bread. Yes you can have the food, but there are strings attached. Hence the phrase וינהלם בלחם, Yosef “led” the Egyptians with demands of how they shall behave.
With this Reb Zalman Sorotzkin concluded his impassioned plea. This is the method for determining if you associate with us as brothers or as strangers. Are you willing to help out without any “suggestions?” His words made a big impression.
In Oznayim LeTorah, Rav Sorotzkin’s commentary on the Torah, he offers another explanation of the variation of the language used. The trademark of a Jew is to be stubborn and not sell his soul for some food during times of hunger. He won’t sacrifice his religion and beliefs to relieve his hunger pangs. Eisav, on the other hand, sold his Firstborn rights for a bowl of lentils. He was willing to relinquish the great privileges of the Firstborn just to fill a physical void. Similarly, those who follow Eisav’s ways are always willing to forgo their inner beliefs in exchange for a slice of bread. Yosef sustained his brothers, ויכלכל… בלחם, they took bread but not at the expense of religion. But with the Egyptians, Yosef led them, וינהלם. He was able to use bread as a vehicle to have them act according to his wishes. He commanded them to first circumcise themselves before they would receive their rations.
There is a well-known story about a Jew who unfortunately left the fold after the Holocaust. He explained that his decision had resulted from a scene he had witnessed. Someone had a Siddur in his possession. A long line of prisoners waited to have an opportunity to use it, in exchange for the “price” of their coveted bread. “How can he be so cruel,” asked this fellow, “and charge all those people the hefty price of their daily minimal sustenance? I cannot remain a part of this nation.”
When a wise man heard this explanation, he told him, “You fool! Why are you focusing on the one person who had the Siddur? Look at all those noble individuals in line, who were willing to sacrifice their bread for a taste of spiritual sustenance. What an awesome people to associate with!”
Jews do not sell their souls for bread; they sell their bread for their souls!


There is an apparent contradiction in the Torah’s description of Yosef’s edict. In Parshas Mikeitz, Yosef commanded all of the Mitzrim to perform Bris Milah, and with Pharoah’s consent, they all did so. On the other hand, Rashi in Parshas Vayigash cites the Midrash which says that when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he confirmed their belief that he was actually Yosef by showing them that he had a Bris Milah. If all of the Mitzrim had performed Bris Milah, then how is a Bris Milah a proof that Yosef was actually Yosef, when he is no different from all of the other people in Mitzrayim?
It could be that although all of the Mitzrim had performed Bris Milah, the mere revelation of a Bris Milah was a proof that Yosef was just like the other brothers, for his revelation of his Bris Milah showed his love and Chavivos for the Mitzvah. For the Mitzrim, however, the Milah was an embarrassment, and no one would be proud to show it off. In fact, Yosef’s Bris Milah was done through his father Yaakov, with Simcha and Zerizus, whereas the Bris Milah of the Mitzrim was done against their will and only after they had complained to Pharoah. No Mitzri would be proud of his Bris Milah, nor would he reveal it to any other person.
Another explanation is that perhaps the Mitzrim did not actually perform Bris Milah. In Parshas Mikeitz, Rashi only describes the Mitzrim encountering Pharoah and complaining to him about Yosef’s request that they perform Bris Milah. Perhaps due to the pain and dangers of performing the Bris Milah, the Mitzrim were unwilling to perform the act, even though this would jeopardize their relationship with Yosef. It might even be that they were willing to live in famine in order to avoid Bris Milah, for just as famine is painful and dangerous, they felt that Bris Milah would also be painful and dangerous.