Brotherly Love

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Vayigash
Brotherly Love

After Yosef revealed his true identity to his brothers, he fell on Binyamin's neck and cried, and Binyamin cried on Yosef's neck (Vayigash, 45:14-15). Rashi (Citing Megillah, chap. 1, "Megillah Nikreis", pg. 16b, Rebbi Elazar) says that Yosef cried about the two Batei Mikdash (Temples) that were eventually going to be destroyed on Binyamin's portion in Eretz Yisrael, and Binyamin cried about the Mishkan (Sanctuary) that was going to be destroyed on Yosef's portion in Eretz Yisrael.

This seems a bit odd. Yosef and Binyamin had not seen each other for twenty-two years. They had a lot of catching up to do. They should have been so excited and happy about their reunion. They should have been asking each other if they were married and if they had children. Instead, they decided to mourn over a future event in Jewish history. Why was this the appropriate time to grieve over the Batei Mikdash?

Let's get right into this week's lesson. The Gemara (Yoma, chap. 1, "Shivas Yamim", pg. 9b) tells us that the second Beis Hamikdash (Temple) was destroyed because of "sinas chinam" (baseless hatred. This is a hatred directed towards individuals who have not committed any action for which it would be justifiable to hate them; Rashi, Shabbos, chap. 2, "Bameh Madlikin", pg. 32b, divrei hamaschil "Sinas").

The Kesav Sofer (Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, 1815-1871, son of the Chasam Sofer, Hungary) adds that the whole story about "Mechiras Yosef" (The Sale of Yosef) seemed to have been a case of sinas chinam. After all, it says that when the brothers saw that Ya'akov loved Yosef more than all of his sons, they hated him (Yosef; Vayeishev, 37:3-4).

This explains why the Batei Mikdash resided in the portions of Yosef and Binyamin to begin with. It is because, of all the brothers, only Yosef and Binyamin had no part in the sinas chinam by Mechiras Yosef. If sinas chinam can tear down the Batei Mikdash, then, the best place to build those Temples would be in a place which was free of sinas chinam. The portions of Yosef and Binyamin represented a sinas chinam free environment. That is why their portions were the ideal settings for the Batei Mikdash.

When the story about Mechiras Yosef came to a conclusion, Hashem revealed to Yosef and Biyamin, with Divine Inspiration, that the Temples would rest in their portions because the atmosphere was clean of sinas chinam. Hashem also showed them that it would be sinas chinam that would eventually cause those Temples to collapse.

This explains why Yosef and Binyamin cried about the churbanos (destructions) specifically now. Yes, they were happy and excited to see each other after so many years, however, this revelation took precedence over their catching up with each other.

Perhaps we could add that although the Gemara (Yoma ibid) lists the three cardinal sins, (idolatry, immorality, and murder), as the spiritual causes of the first Temple's destruction, nevertheless, sinas chinam may have been at the root of those sins as well. If a person commits the crime of immorality with another man's wife, the adulterer probably suffers from sinas chinam towards her husband.

If a person commits the crime of murder, it is pretty obvious that there was some degree of sinas chinam going on there. Even in the case of idolatry, one could argue that there is a measure of sinas chinam that the person feels towards God. That is why he abandoned God and began worshipping another.

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei, Remez 929, Rav Yehuda, Rebbi Avin) says that the sinas chinam that the brothers harbored towards Yosef, was inherited by the Jewish people as a whole. We still suffer from the illness of sinas chinam. That is why there were the Asara Harugei Malchus (Ten Martyrs). Since ten brothers sinned with baseless hatred by Mechiras Yosef, ten tzaddikim had to lose their lives in such a gruesome way. Not only that, but in every single generation there are Asara Harugei Malchus.

The Zohar (Vayeishev, pg. 29) adds that since we still suffer from sinas chinam, we fell into the hands of Edom (Rome). The Romans destroyed the second Temple and sent us into an exile that we are still experiencing today. This explains why we find such anti-Semitism in Galus Edom (Roman Exile). Academics will offer a list of six reasons for anti-Semitism. They are:

1) The Jews control the media and control what is going on politically.

2) The Jews control the banks and money to bring governments to their knees. This is for world domination.

3) Jews are stingy.

4) Jews are anti-social.

5) Jews killed Christ.

6) Jews think that they are chosen and better than everybody else.

However, all of these reasons can be refuted. What then is the real reason for this unexplainable anti-Semitism? The Zohar says that it is measure for measure. Since we are still guilty of sinas chinam amongst ourselves, we experience sinas chinam from the nations.

The Divrei Yisrael (of Modjitz, citing his grandfather, Reb Yechezkel of Kazmir) says that Yosef and Binyamin began the tikkun (repairing) of sinas chinam. Not only did they cry about the future destructions, but, each one cried about the churban that would take place in the other's portion. This selfless care and concern for another demonstrated ahavas chinam (baseless love). Yosef and Binyamin displayed this ahavas chinam in front of their brothers in order to teach them what must be done to repair the damage that was caused by their sinas chinum.

The brother's hatred of Yosef was not over petty matters. Rather, they disagreed with Yosef's derech (way) of avodas Hashem (service of God). For example, in previous articles and classes, we mentioned how Yosef's approach was that of outreach. In doing so, Yosef implemented methods that were foreign to his brothers. They did not approve and hated him for that.

Sometimes we transgress sinas chinam because we see other Jews serve God in a different manner than we do. We get so protective of our own ways that we feel a need to castigate and criticize any approach which differs from ours.

This is why Yosef said to them, "Al Tirgizu Baderech" (do not become agitated on the way; Vayigash, 45:24). Many interpretations have been given to understand the meaning behind Yosef's words. However, the Divrei Yisrael says that Yosef meant to say that they should not become "agitated" when they see somebody else who has a different "derech" in Avodas Hashem.

There are many halachic bonafide ways of serving Hashem. There is enough flexibility in Judaism to express individuality, well within the framework of Torah and halacha.

This is likened to the military. There are many divisions in the military. There is the Air Force, a tank division, a Navy, and foot soldiers. Each division wears a different uniform. Some are green, others are blue, some are white, and others are tan. Yet, they all take their orders from the general.

Each division must learn how to work together with the others as a team in order to accomplish a common goal. Can you imagine if the foot soldiers get jealous of the Air Force pilots thinking that it's not fair that the pilots get to fly around in expensive air-conditioned F-16s while they have to schlepp around on the hot desert floor with sand in their faces. Imagine what would happen if the foot soldiers decided not to communicate with the Air Force. Can you imagine how many casualties there would be from friendly fire?

The same holds true with the different divisions of observant Jews. Each one has a different uniform. Some coats are long while others are short. Some head coverings are black velvet, others are white knitted, some are leather, and others are furry. Some wear shaitels, others dress in tichels, and others have hats on top of shaitels.

These different uniforms represent different approaches in Avodas Hashem. Although all these groups are committed to keeping the entire Torah, nevertheless, each one may have adopted a certain mitzvah as their pet project. One group focuses on Yishuv Eretz Yisrael (living in Israel) while another group concentrates on the study of Torah full time. One group stresses the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) while another is dedicated to outreach.

There is really no place for one group to criticize another just because it is different. They are all beautiful. After all, there is chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, but it's all ice cream. It's all sweet.

There needs to be more tolerance, respect, appreciation, admiration, and love for each other. We must all learn how to communicate with each other better. We are all committed to doing Hashem's will. It's just that there are different approaches, and all of them are necessary.

Each Shevet (Tribe of Israel) had its own flag, its own, emblem, and its own color. This represented the fact that each tribe had its own unique function and mission. One tribe was dedicated to the military, another tribe was committed to full time Torah study, another tribe's job was to secure the nation financially, while another tribe was selected to do the avodah (service) in the Beis Hamikdash. Each job is crucial. Without one, the others cannot exist.

Kabbalistically speaking, each tribe had their own Nusach Hatefillah (text of prayer). Each nusach fit the type of souls born into each specific tribe. There are also twelve gates to Heaven through which the twelve nuschaos (texts) would travel. Moreover, each tribe would receive its portion of Torah through its own Heavenly gate (Arizal, Sha'ar Hakavanos, Derush Aleinu Lishabeach, pg. 50). This further demonstrates the different approaches that the various tribes were supposed to take.

The appreciation that one tribe has for the other is the key to our success. The Jewish people are a diverse nation, but, there is unity within diversity. To the extent that we replace sinas chinam with ahavas chinam, we will deserve the building of our third and final Beis Hamikdash.

One paradigm example of ahavas chinam was Rochel Imeinu (Mother Rochel). The Midrash (Eicha Rabbasi, preface, #24) says that at the time Hashem destroyed the first Beis Hamikdash, the Avos (Patriarchs) and Moshe Rabbenu pounded on the gates of mercy, but to no avail. Hashem was only moved by Rochel. Rochel pleaded with Hashem. This is what she said.

She said, "Hashem, You know how much Ya'akov loved me. He worked for my hand in marriage for seven years. After the seven years, Lavan decided to switch me for my sister, Leah. I could have left well enough alone because Ya'akov would certainly discover this trick when heavily veiled Leah would not be able to respond to the signs that Ya'akov and I invented to prevent such a situation.

But, I decided to tell Leah about the signs just so that she should not be publicly humiliated. Not only that, but after the wedding, I hid under their bed. Every time Ya'akov spoke to his wife, Leah was silent, and I responded, so that Ya'akov should not discover her true identity through voice recognition.

Now, I am just a person of flesh and blood. I am but dust and ash, but I was never jealous of my sister. But, Hashem, You are the eternal living King. Why are You so jealous of the idolatry that my children have been guilty of? You know that the idols are meaningless. Why would You send my children into exile where they are slaughtered by the sword of enemies who can do to them as they please?"

Hashem's compassion was awakened and He said, "A voice is heard on High, wailing, bitter weeping, Rochel weeps for her children, she refuses to be consoled for her children because they are gone. Restrain your voice from crying and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your actions, there is hope for your future, for your children will return to their borders" (Yirmiya, 31:14-16).

The reason why Hashem promised the Final Redemption specifically to Rochel was because it was only Rochel who displayed baseless love for her sister. Rochel must have purified her personality to such an extent, and she must have developed her character traits to such a degree, that enabled her to assist her sister to marry her (Rochel's) soul mate, and not feel even a tinge of jealousy or hatred towards her.

This ahavas chinam was, and is, the very quality necessary to repair the damage that was done with sinas chinam.

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that this is why it was specifically Yosef and Binyamin who began to fix the sin of sinas chinam when they demonstrated ahavas chinam when they cried about the destruction that would happen in the other's portion. It is because they were the children of Rochel. This was the chinuch (education) that they received in their home. They followed in the footsteps of Mother Rochel.

The Shvilei Pinchas points out that this explains why the Midrash Tehillim (120:6) says that it was specifically Eisav (Edom, Rome) who destroyed the second Beis Hamikdash. It is because Eisav hates peace. "Eisav" is numerically 376, which is the same numerical value as the word "shalom" (peace). This teaches us that "Eisav" is an opponent of "shalom" (Ba'al Haturim, Toldos, 25:25).

Not only that, but, Eisav grows stronger when there is argumentativeness amongst us. When we harbor sinas chinam, we fuel Eisav and strengthen his powers. Since we still had sinas chinam, we empowered Eisav to destroy our Temple and exile us into the longest exile ever.

The Shvilei Pinchas continues by saying that this is why the Pesikta D'Rav Kahana (3:13) and Pesikta Rabbasi (13) says that, in the end, Eisav will fall specifically into the hands of Rochel's children. It is because, only Rochel and her children possessed such incredible ahavas chinam. Therefore, specifically they have the power to counteract what Eisav represents.

In fact, when you take the acronym of their names, Rochel, Yosef, and Binyamin, you get the word "riv" (which means "argumentativeness" This teaches us that specifically Rochel, Yosef, and Binyamin have the power to remove "riv" from the world).

Although Binyamin had no sinas chinam for any of his brothers, he was still not on the level of Yosef, because the brothers never hated Binyamin and they never picked on him. However, Yosef was hated and violated by his brothers. And still, Yosef carried no hatred against them whatsoever (Rashi Vayigash, 45:12, citing Megillah, chap. 1, "Megillah Nikreis", pg. 16b, Rebbi Elazar). This explains the following puzzling Gemara (Baba Basra, chap. 5, "Hamocher Es Hasefinah", pg. 75a).

The verse says, "I will set your window frames with ruby" (Yeshaya, 54:12). Two angels in Heaven, Gavriel and Michael, argued about the meaning of this verse. Some say that two Amoraic sages in Eretz Yisrael, Yehudah and Chizkiya, the sons of Rebbi Chiya, argued about this verse. One said that the verse means "Shoham" (the Onyx stone), whereas the other said that the verse means "Yashfei" (the Jasper stone). Hashem said, "Let it be like this one and that one."

The way to resolve this mysterious Gemara is as follows. The Shoham stone just so happens to be the stone on the Choshen Mishpat (Breast-plate of Justice) which represented the tribe of Yosef. The Yashfei stone just so happened to represent the tribe of Binyamin on the Choshen Mishpat.

The debate in Heavan above and on Earth below was about which spiritual level is necessary to bring about the Final Redemption. Do we need the higher level of "Shoham," repesenting Yosef? Meaning that we harbor no hatred towards another even after we were hurt by that person, or does it suffice to obtain the lower spiritual level of "Yashfei," representing Binyamin? Meaning that we harbor no baseless hatred for another who has not harmed us.

Hashem said, "Let it be like both," meaning, let us come to a compromise. So long as the tzaddikim (righteous people) are on the level of Yosef Hatzaddik, and the rest of the Jewish people are on the level of Binyamin, Hashem promises to bring the Geulah (redemption).

Before concluding, one point must be mentioned. Nobody says that it is a mitzvah to be naïve and let people take advantage of us. We should always protect ourselves to the best of our ability. Sometimes this requires putting distance between ourselves and harmful parties. However, we are talking about our feelings towards people who have already insulted us or embarrassed us. The level of Yosef means to bear no hatred in our hearts towards those people.

Practically speaking, let's try to work on hating people a little less, and let's try to love people a little more. Here are a few mental exercises that we could implement.

When seeing observant Jews who are different than we are, try to focus on the positive points that they bring to the table, and appreciate what they have to offer.

When seeing an obnoxious person, try to find two, or at least one redeeming quality that this person possesses. Every time we see this person, or every time his name is mentioned, try to focus on that one redeeming quality. This practice can slowly breed an appreciation of him.

Also think that this person is God's child, and He loves him. Although we may not understand why God loves him, He does. This might help us have positive feelings towards him also.

Additionally, think about the fact that this fellow Jew is connected to us. He is one of our family members. Therefore, he is an extension of us. This might breed positive feelings towards him as well.

Moreover, think about when this person was a little baby. He was so cute and adorable. This can put the person into a different perspective. But, also think about what challenges and difficulties this person must have experienced in his life which has made him so bitter. This thought might start to make me feel sorry for him and generate feelings of compassion for him. If these new feelings substitute the feelings of hatred, we are well on the way to recovery.

Remember, the more we implement these exercises, the more we will become less like the very people who agitate us.

So, may we, brothers and sisters, all be blessed to follow in the "derech" of Mother Rochel, and go in the ways of Yosef and Binyamin, by removing "riv" and sinas chinam from our systems, and, instead, instill baseless love within our hearts for each other, and thereby eradicate anti-Semitism from the world, in order that we live to witness the final Geulah, from this long Eisav Galus (exile), and bask in the radiance of the Shoham and Yashfei in the final built Beis Hamikdash.