The Torah describes the emotional reunion that Yosef had with his brother Binyamin. “He fell upon the neck of Binyamin his brother and wept; and Binyamin wept upon the ‘necks’ of Yosef.” Rashi explains the deeper meaning behind what occurred. Although both brothers were weeping tears of joy over their reunion after a separation of 22 years, at this moment both brothers also had a prophetic experience. The tribes would eventually be apportioned a specific parcel of land in the land of Israel. Binyamin’s territory included the place where G-d’s Temple in Jerusalem would be built, and in the territory of Yosef, the Tabernacle that stood in the city of Shilo would be built. Yosef perceived that both G-d’s Temples in Jerusalem, hosted in Binyamin’s territory, would one day be destroyed and he cried on Binyamin’s necks symbolizing his pain over booth their destructions. Similarly, Binyamin wept on the neck of Yosef when he envisioned the destruction of the Tabernacle that stood in the city of Shilo.
The brothers did not weep over their own tragedies, rather they wept over the tragedies of their brother. Rabbi Yaacov Haber explains that one of the main reasons for the destruction of the Temple was ‘Sinas Chinam’ – baseless hatred. The underlying reason for baseless hatred is selfishness, which leads to resentment of the success and good fortune of others. Yosef and Binyamin counteracted this bad trait of selfishness by showing concern for the other’s troubles.
Commentaries point out that the neck area is highlighted in the encounter of Yosef and Binyanim, because King Solomon in Song of Songs refers to the Temple as a neck. The Avnei Nezer explains that just as the neck connects the body to the head, so too, the Temple is the vehicle that connects those living on the physical world to G-d in the Heavens.
The Shem Mishmuel – with a bit of my own embellishment ― explains this further. The neck is host to the wind pipe, esophagus and arteries. Each of these components corresponds to significant functions of the Temple.
Through the wind pipe one’s voice can be heard. The Temple was a place of prayer, and an integral part of the service in the Temple was the singing of the Levites.
The Temple area is significant in our prayers as well no matter when and where a Jew finds himself. We, living in the United States, face east when we pray because we are taught to face Jerusalem towards the Temple area where our prayers travel and where all prayers ascend to the Heavens. The Sanhedrin – Jewish Supreme Court – was also housed in the Temple area. The Sanhedrin represented the study of our Torah which is primarily transferred through the voice of a father to his child or a teacher to his student.
The esophagus transfers our food from our mouths to our bodies. So too, in the Temple there was a table which housed the 12 loaves of showbread that was eaten by the Kohanim. On both of the Altars portions of the sacrificial animals, fowl, grain and incense were offered. Some of the sacrifices were totally consumed by the Altar, some had portions that were shared with the Kohainim, and some were shared with the owners as well. Bikurim – first fruits were presented by the owners to the Kohain in a Temple service.
Arteries are the vehicle through which blood is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body, primarily to the head. The neck is the conduit through which blood passes from the body to the head. The neck area is where an animal or bird sacrifice is slaughtered; the initial blood that emerged was collected in a sanctified vessel by a Kohain and was then brought to the Altar and dashed on its corners or at its base. The primary essence of a sacrifice is the procedure of dashing the blood on the Altar.
Next Tuesday is the public fast of Asarah B’Teves – the Tenth day of the Hebrew month of Teves. On the Tenth of Teves, the Babylonian King Nevuchadnetzar began a siege on Jerusalem which lasted for eighteen months until he penetrated the walls and then destroyed the first Temple. The siege was essentially the onset of the destruction of the Temple; therefore our prophets established it as a day of fasting.
When one fasts, their blood cells are diminished due to the lack of nourishment. By giving up that blood during the fast, G-d considers it as if we ‘sacrificed’ our Nefesh – essence – upon His Altar. We hope that through this, along with our prayers and repentance, G-d will restore the third and everlasting Temple, our metaphorical ‘neck’, with the arrival of our Redeemer – the Moshiach.