May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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Vayigash: Yakov, Yosef, and the Airport Pickup

Terminal B at Newark Airport had been very quiet when Adam Baskin first arrived at 6 a.m. He could hear the whirring noise of the escalators behind him, and the occasional departure announcement over the airport loudspeakers echoed off the walls of the cavernous, empty space of the International Arrivals Area. But within half an hour of his arrival a crowd started to gather. Along with El Al flight 27 from Tel Aviv, Delta Flight 379 from Warsaw and Continental Flight 144 from Buenos Aires were also scheduled to touch down. Adam always marveled at the melting pot of nationalities that was New Jersey. Every possible racial and ethnic group had an enclave here somewhere, and it took a place like Newark Airport, or as they officially called it post-9/11, Newark Liberty International Airport, to gather them all together under one roof.

Adam had come to pick up his son Jason. He brought the minivan because Jason was arriving with two large duffel bags–most likely stuffed with dirty laundry–a carry-on or two, and who knows what else. A shopping bag filled with wooden camels? A hooka from the Arab shuk? A large stack of new seforim? Knowing Jason, anything was possible.

Jason had been studying in a yeshiva in Israel for a year, and now he was finally coming home. Adam had missed him terribly. Jason was his youngest, the last to leave the roost, and Adam was very attached to him. He and his wife Sharon had gone over to Israel in November for a visit, but it had been six months since he had last laid eyes on his son, and that felt like a long time. They spoke by phone at least twice a week, but as the year went on, Jason’s calls had become shorter and more perfunctory.

Jason was scheduled to start Brandeis in the fall, but he planned to stay home this summer and work in one of the local camps as a counselor. Adam couldn’t wait until his son stepped out from behind the plexiglass barrier that separated the luggage carousels and customs inspectors from the waiting friends and family.

Adam thought back to when he was a child and his parents came up to sleep-away camp for visiting day. He was always so excited to see them, having been away on an adventure for two whole weeks without them. He would wait by the parking lot for their car to arrive packed full of goodies. And five hours later, when they left, he would have that empty feeling as he walked back to his bunk, missing them already, until of course he got back to his friends and they divided up their loot.

Adam wondered who missed whom more. Did the parent or the child suffer more from their separation? There is a famous example in the Torah. When Yosef is sold into slavery by his brothers, and Yakov is told that Yosef is dead, the Torah suggests that he is inconsolable. Yakov says, “Eired el bini avel she’ola. I will go down to the grave mourning for my son.”

Then years later, Jacob is informed that Yosef is still alive. He goes down to Egypt, and they are reunited. In Parshat Vayigash, Joseph harnesses his chariot and goes to Goshen to meet his dear old Dad. The parsha states, “Vayeirah eilav vayipol al tsavarav vayevk al tsavarav od. He appeared before him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck excessively.”

Ah yes, but who cried on whose neck? The language is ambiguous. Most of the commentators suggest it was Yosef who cried on his father’s neck, but the Ramban, Nachmanides, states that it was Yakov, the father, who cried.

So who was it, the father or the son?

Jason came out from the customs area and walked slowly across the crowded room, searching for a familiar face. Adam saw him immediately and started waving his arms, pretending not to notice the scraggly beard Jason had grown in the Holy Land. Jason pushed his Smart Carte up to his father, dropped his carry-on bag and gave Adam a big bear hug. Tears were welling up in Adam’s eyes, but he fought them back.

“Dad, after we settle in at home, do you know what would be really nice?”

“What, Jason.”

“Maybe a good slice of pizza from Jerusalem 3? I could really go for that in a big way.”

The Ramban definitely knew what he was talking about. Clearly the crier had been Yakov.

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

By Larry Stiefel

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