Parshas Vayigash

Note: Rabbi Ciner was unable to write his weekly portion.
The one appearing here is a reprunt of last year's d'var Torah.

This week's parsha of Vayigash teaches us a beautiful lesson on how to treat and forgive someone who has wronged you.

Yehuda offers himself as a slave in order to allow his younger brother, Binyamin, to return to his father. He appeals to Yosef to have sympathy on his elderly father, to spare him the pain of 'losing' Binyamin. At that point, Yosef acrimoniously reveals his true identity as the brother they sold into slavery, demanding to know if their father is still alive after having suffered the anguish of 'losing' him.

The stunned brothers were rendered speechless.

Yosef then spoke in a conciliatory tone: "I am Yosef your brother that you sold to Mitzrayim {Egypt}. But now, don't be sad or angry that you sold me; Hashem has sent me before you in order to provide you with sustenance. It was not you who sent me here but Hashem. [45:4-5,8]"
The Ohr HaChaim explains that Yosef, by telling them not to be sad about the sale, was showing them that he knew they regretted it. He was also afraid that they might be a bit angry and frustrated. They sold him in order to thwart the fulfillment of his dreams of them bowing down to him. The realization that the sale had instead brought about the fulfillment of those dreams might have angered and frustrated them. He therefore told them not to be angry, explaining that their actions really did benefit them by him being in Mitzrayim to provide them with sustenance.

Often, when someone comes to apologize, our initial reaction is, "It was nothing, no big deal, don't worry about it," even when we really were insulted. Rav Yitzchak Blazer, zt"l would say that although this appears on the surface to be a very gracious response, the root of this reply might be an unwillingness to really forgive him. As opposed to hearing out and dealing with the apology, a person might prefer to brush him off, leaving him still owing that apology. In such a case, the real chessed {kindness} that can be shown is to let him 'get it off his chest,' honestly accept the apologies and allow things to move on.

Yosef took this even a step further. Whereas saying it was nothing when both parties know that it really was something leaves the person still in debt, Yosef managed to, in a heartfelt manner, turn the tables leaving himself in debt. I owe you one! You did me a tremendous favor! Your actions brought me to the pinnacle of power in Mitzrayim, putting me in a position to sustain our entire family.

Were Yosef's comforting words any less than completely sincere, they would not have made their way into the beacon of truth known as the Torah. An incredible lesson in forgiveness and relieving other's burdens.

Another interesting instance where it is actually chessed {kindness} to go against what appears to be the gracious response is in accepting a gift of appreciation. After having really helped someone, it is common that the recipient or those close to him will want to show their appreciation through some sort of a gift.

Again, the initial, superficially 'gracious' reaction is to say, "Please, there's no need for any gift, it was nothing, I'm really fine." However, the term 'a debt of gratitude' is actually quite revealing. There is a debt that a person feels and a very uneasy feeling accompanies those in debt when they come across the person to whom they owe. In such situations, the greatest kindness and show of true graciousness is to allow a person to 'pay' that debt. Accept a gift even though you don't need it, even though you don't want it. Let that person feel they have evened the score and allow them to move on.

A close friend and talmid {student} of mine recently came into the position of being able to financially help many people. He usually had little need for the gifts of appreciation that he was presented with and felt they could be put to better use by the giver himself. However, I prevailed upon him to realize that in many cases, the act of taking was actually one of giving.

The Talmud [Nedarim 24A] discusses the concept of making one's possessions forbidden to another person through an oath. Rabi Eliezer ben Yaakov is of the opinion that, if one makes such an oath dependent on that person coming for a meal, even if the person does not come for the meal, the oath will not take effect. His reasoning is that the person never really intended to forbid his possessions on the other but rather was trying to encourage/persuade him to come for that meal.

An exception would be if, instead of forbidding usage of his possessions on the person who wouldn't come for a meal, he would forbid his own usage of that person's possessions. There we say that he really means it-if you don't come to me for a meal, I won't take anything from you anymore. The reasoning is, as the Talmud explains: "I'm not a dog who will keep taking from you without giving anything in return."

A superficial graciousness can make a person feel less than human-a true display of graciousness raises the dignity of all involved.

Good Shabbos,
Yisroel Ciner

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