Ahavas Yisroel

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December 29 2008
Parshas Vayigash is usually read within the week of Asara B’Teves, the day on which the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem. This concurrence can be explained by the fact that the idea of Ahavas Yisroel (loving our fellow Jew), which permeates Parshas Vayigash, is crucial in understanding Asara B’Teves.
Parshas Vayigash recounts the story of the reunification of Yosef with his brothers. The Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh points out that Yosef twice told his brothers “Ani Yosef,” or that “I am Yosef,” and the second time he added “acheichem,” meaning that “I am your brother” (Bereishes 45:3- 4). The Ohr HaChayim explains that Yosef repeated this phrase twice, because while the brothers were embarrassed at the fact that they had sold Yosef, they did not truly believe that this person was their brother. Therefore, Yosef addressed both concerns by telling them that he is Yosef, and despite the fact that they sold him into slavery, he always loved them and would deal with them as a loving brother. This highlights the importance of Ahavas Yisroel.
Regarding the midah of Ahavas Yisroel, Yosef serves as a role model for all of Klal Yisroel. Yosef did not take revenge on his brothers, but instead tried to inspire and create a loving relationship. He assuaged their fears and told them that everything turned out well in the end. Just as Yosef was careful when addressing his brothers’ feelings, every individual must be sensitive to others. This was the greatness of Yosef and is the epitome of Ahavas Yisroel.
The Maharal writes that a person who loves Hashem will look to love all of his “children.” Thus, a person who hates other people is in essence showing his hatred of God, as he displays his disgust for something God created in His own image. As people are unable to comprehend Hashem’s master plan for everybody in this world, they must show love to all God’s creations and not harbor hatred for anyone. As it is written in the Midrash, all Hashem wants from the Jewish People is that they should love, honor, and respect each other.
Before examining the connection between Parshas Vayigash and Asara B’Teves, a closer inspection of the fast-day is necessary. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, once commented that during the siege on Asara B’Teves, there was a tremendous opportunity for the Jewish people to unite in time of pain and sorrow. The Rebbe remarked that if the Jews would have united, the Temple would not have been destroyed. However, the Jews were unsuccessful and their failure directly resulted in the Churban HaBayis.
The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that in any generation, if the Temple is not rebuilt, it is considered as if it had been destroyed in that generation. Every Asara B’Teves, Hashem decides if the Temple will be rebuilt that year, or if the Temple will again be “destroyed.” Therefore, Asara B’Teves is not just a day mourning the Babylonian siege of Yerushalayim, but is instead a day of introspection looking at the possibility of correcting our sins, resulting in the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash.
After explaining the importance of Asara B’Teves as a day of introspection and correction, it is clear why Parshas Vayigash is read during that week. Parshas Vayigash recounts the story of Yosef and his brothers, a story permeating with the idea of Ahavas Yisroel. Hashem demands from Klal Yisroel that they accept Yosef as their role model in loving all fellow Jews. If the people of the Jewish Nation can learn to respect and love each other, then they are in essence “correcting” the mistake of Asara B’Teves, when Am Yisroel was unable to create a strong level of unity.
We pray that Hashem should decide that this Tisha B’Av should be a time of joy and happiness instead of a time of sorrow and mourning.



The connection between Parshat VaYigash and Asara B'Teves

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