(Torah Portion Vayaishev) Homecoming!

The Torah relates an unsettling story. Yosef’s brothers sold him as a slave to a caravan of passing merchants. To conceal Yosef’s whereabouts from their father Yaacov, the brothers dipped his special cloak in goat’s blood and presented it to him when they returned home. Yaacov deduced that Yosef was devoured by a beast, and was inconsolable.

The Torah relates that all of Yaacov’s sons and daughters (daughters in law) came to console him, but he refused to be consoled.

The Torah does not relate the words they used when consoling their father. Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh explains that they did not say a word to their father. Rather, they gathered the entire large family together and had Yaacov observe how many there were, conveying to Yaacov, “Yes, one of your children is gone, but look around and see how many are in your family!”

Says the Ohr Hachaim, “This was no consolation to Yaacov, because he viewed each and every child as unique and special, and no matter how many other children and grandchildren he had, he did not feel complete, as long as there was one missing from the group. For the next twenty-two years that Yosef was absent, Yaacov never let up grieving.”

I recently had the privilege of listening to an inspiring speech given by Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum of Queens NY. He shared this explanation of the Ohr Hachaim, and then related that one day during the break between the afternoon Mincha prayer and the evening Maariv prayer, a colleague of his mentioned this insightful Ohr Hachaim to the congregants of his Shul, adding the following postscript:

We see from Yaacov’s love, yearning and hope for his lost child, that a father cannot be consoled if he is missing a child.

The Rabbi then asked, “Is G-d Almighty, our Father in Heaven, any different? He also considers each of us His children and will not be consoled until each and every child of His returns home to his roots and recognizes his unique relationship, duties and responsibilities he has with the Almighty! G-d longingly waits for each of his children to return to Him!”

Sitting in Shul during this short D’var Torah was a man who only attended the weekday service once a year, when he had Yahrtzait for his father. Surprisingly, the man continued to regularly attend services throughout the week. This caught the attention of the rabbi, who approached the man complimenting and encouraging him to keep up his attendance. He then asked him what motivated him or attracted him to attend regularly.

The man explained that it was the idea that the rabbi presented about G-d not letting up until each one of His children comes closer to Him. “I always thought that I was insignificant in terms of G-d’s broad picture of the world. This was the first time in my life that I was exposed to the concept that I have a personal relationship with the Almighty, and what I do or don’t do, really makes a difference.” He then related that aside from attending Minyan, “I have also decided to take the rest of my Judaism a little more seriously. ‘So here I am, proudly letting G-d know that a long awaited child of His is returning home!”

At the end of the story of Yosef, we see that Yaacov’s yearning for his son’s return eventually yielded results and father and son were reunited.

There will also be a time when the following verse at the end of the Prophet Malachai will be realized: “Behold! I send you Elijah the prophet, before the great and awesome day of G-d (Our Redemption). He shall restore the heart of fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers…!”

Before heralding the Redemption, Elijah the prophet will stage a colossal homecoming of G-d’s children by generating a reconnection and identification with their Father in Heaven. This will bring them to unimaginable spiritual heights!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks