April 10, 2024
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Vayigash: Importance of Escorting Guests

וַיְדַבְּרוּ אֵלָיו אֵת כָּל דִּבְרֵי יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֲלֵהֶם וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֲגָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח יוֹסֵף לָשֵׂאת אֹתוֹ וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם – And they told him all of Joseph’s words that he had said to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, and the spirit of their father Jacob was revived. (Bereishit 45:27)

Rashi comments that Yosef sent agalot (wagons), and upon seeing the wagons, Yaakov was reminded of eglah arufah, the last Torah topic they learned together.

Whereas Rashi focuses on the first words, וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֲגָלוֹת, the Kli Yakar emphasizes that אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח יוֹסֵף, that Yosef sent, as the key component that brought Yaakov back to life.

What can we learn from Yosef’s action of escorting (liviya) one’s guest(s)?

According to the Kli Yakar, when Yaakov escorted Yosef to the Valleys of Chevron (toward Shechem where his brothers tended to their sheep), he practiced liviya while explaining the importance of the mitzvah, as the pasuk states,  וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל יוֹסֵף הֲלוֹא אַחֶיךָ רֹעִים בִּשְׁכֶם לְכָה וְאֶשְׁלָחֲךָ אֲלֵיהֶם וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ הִנֵּנִי, And Israel said to Joseph, “Are your brothers not pasturing in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am” (Bereishit 37:13).

The Ohr Hachaim explains the words לְכָה וְאֶשְׁלָחֲך (ibid., 37:13) as follows: Go toward your brothers and not be concerned whether they despise you, for you will not be harmed since I (Yaakov) will personally escort you on your path, and we are all familiar with the Talmudic dictum: והאמר רבי אלעזר שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזוקין, Rabbi Elazar said: an individual sent to perform a mitzvah will not be harmed (Pesachim 8b).

We trace Yaakov’s actions of escorting guests to Avraham, as the pasuk states, וַיָּקֻמוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים,וַיַּשְׁקִפוּ עַל פְּנֵי סְדֹם וְאַבְרָהָם הֹלֵךְ עִמָּם לְשַׁלְּחָם And the men arose from there, and they looked upon Sodom, and Abraham went with them to escort them (Bereishit 18:16). Rashi explains that the word לְשַׁלְּחָם as lilvotom, to escort them. Therefore, Yaakov sent Yosef on his journey from Chevron toward Shechem, vayishlichahu me’emek Chevron, because Chevron is where the great tzadik Avraham is buried, the first to practice mitzvat liviya. Yaakov reasoned this would serve as a zechut for his son Yosef who was about to begin a (long) journey. Additionally, Avraham planted a tree, vayita eishel. Rashi explains eishel is an acronym for the kindness Avraham provided his guests, specifically achila, food, shtiya, drink, and liviya, accompanying guest(s) as they departed his presence (Sotah 10a).

The significance of escorting one’s guests cannot be underscored. When a guest is escorted, thieves and murderers hesitate killing such a person because family members (father and/or brothers) will demand blood (go’aley hadam). However, non-escorted guests face grave danger as murderers do not factor retribution. Therefore, failure to escort one’s guest(s) is comparative to murder and subsequent cause for an eglah arufah.

When the brothers told their father that Yosef had sent these wagons, Yaakov understood that Yosef must surely be alive because:

Yosef exhibited kindness through his speech and by personally escorting the brothers to the wagons, an act well beyond his elevated social status. Therefore, when the brothers relayed Yosef’s words and actions, יַעֲקֹב felt revived.

Additionally, each Egyptian wagon (all under Paroh’s control) displayed the king’s royal seal. Yosef could have reasoned that he was not required to send off his brothers through escort since they were already given an honorable exit through Paroh’s chariots. Only royalty used chariots; who would dare attack the king? Therefore, as an additional public display of the sanctity of mitzvat liviya, Yosef, against his social graces and before the entire land of Egypt, escorted his brothers in order to ensure their safe passage home.

This impressed Yaakov as it was clear that Yosef’s actions, as second in command and most influential Egyptian, were both completely irrational to the brothers and the Egyptians, yet entirely rational and expected of a ben Torah. Beyond reasonable doubt, Yosef fulfilled the mitzvah of liviya not because of social pressure from his elevated office—for which there was none—but rather because of daat Torah and shmirot hamitzvos. Yaakov now understood that even in Mitzrayim Yosef adhered to Hashem and the mitzvot. This solidified his revival and faith that indeed his long-lost son was not dead but rather very much alive.

Eilu Devarim: Each morning we state that one of the things man can reap interest in this world and principal in the next is halvayat hameit, escorting the dead. It is clear from this dvar Torah that liviya, as practiced by our Avot, adds sanctity and honor to all Gods creations, especially those who can no longer say thank you.

After the brothers buried Yaakov in Chevron’s mearat hamachpela, Yosef detoured the entourage north toward Shechem, returning to the very pit in which he was thrown some 34 years prior, where he stated the following words: “Baruch she’asa li nisim bamakom hazeh, Blessed are You, Hashem, Who performed a miracle for me in this place (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayechi). Yaakov’s liviya resulted in a miracle for Yosef, securing his passage to great prominence. The planned and unplanned are all designed by Hashem, and everything Hashem causes to happen in the end is all for our own personal good.

While learning in Eretz Yisrael, Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim (92-94), I had the unique experience of spending Shabbos by Rav Zalman Brizal, zt”l, the mara d’atra of Geula. I was always amazed and could never forget how after visiting this great tzadik, he always walked me out to the street from his apartment in Geula, Rechov Amos 10. Reb Zalman, zt”l, was surely familiar with this Kli Yakar.

May we be zoche to have many guest(s) visit us for Shabbos and then properly escort them so they may continue their journey safely home. Good Shabbos.

Below is additional information on eglah arufah and an amazing remez by Dr. Eli Wagshall.

The parsha of eglah arufah begins with the following passage: כִּי יִמָּצֵא חָלָל בָּאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱלֹקֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לְרִשְׁתָּהּ נֹפֵל בַּשָּׂדֶה לֹא נוֹדַע מִי הִכָּהוּ, If a slain person be found in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you to possess, lying in the field, [and] it is not known who slew him (Devarim 21:1). The subject matter discusses a dead corpse found within city limits. While the murderer remains at large, the elders (Sanhedrin) convene and measure the proximity of the corpse to the nearest town. The elders take a calf (in its first year) that has neither labored nor burdened in the field that has not been worked (Sotah 45b) and breaks the back of the calf’s neck with a long knife. The calf, which did not produce fruit, is fatally crippled in a place that cannot bear fruit to atone for the corpse that can no longer produce fruit—to produce mitzvot (Sotah 46a).

The elders then wash their hands over the calf and announce, “Our hands have not spilled this blood, and our eyes did not see. Atone for Your people Yisrael, whom You have redeemed; Hashem, do not place innocent blood in the midst of Your people Yisrael.” The elders are then instructed to remove the innocent blood from its midst “for you shall do what is upright in the eyes of Hashem.” Couple things to quickly clarify: Removing innocent blood refers to the murderer who will be put to death if found after the calf’s neck has been broken. The calf does not atone for the murderer’s act (Sotah 47b). Second, when the Sanhedrin says, “Our hands have not spilled this blood,” would anyone suspect that the Sanhedrin spilled blood? Rather, they are stating that we did not see him leaving, and sent him off without food and escort (Sotah 45b).

Dr. Elimelech Wagshall (a descendant of the Noam Elimelech and resident of Marine Park) developed a remez connecting Parshat Vayigash to eglah arufah and Yosef to Yaakov. Beginning with the second word, the first six letters of the first six words that begin the parsha of eglah arufah (Devarim 21:1) state ‘כִּי יִמָּצֵא חָלָל בָּאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר ה, If a corpse will be found on the land that Hashem… is meramez to (Od) Avi Chai (yud, chet = chai, bet, alef, yud = AhVI (My father is still alive).

Shavua tov.

By Mordechai Plotsker


Mordechai Plotsker runs a popular 10-minute nightly shiur on the parsha with a keen interest on the invigorating teachings of the Berditchever Rav, the Kedushas Levi. To learn more about the nightly shiur including dial-in information, visit www.shiurenjoyment.com. Plotsker resides in Hillside, New Jersey, with his wife and children and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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