ר' שלום בן יוסף גורי זצ"ל
In Parahsas Vayigash, Yaakov reunites with his son Yosef and addresses Yaakov going down to Mitzrayim as Yehudah to ‘lead the way.' Chazal tell us Yaakov went to Mitzraim to establish a yeshiva. This a bit unusual as he established a yeshivah even before the necessity of building one. Instead, Yaakov should have needed to go to Mitzraim and then establish a yeshivah because he lived there.
Further in the posuk, it says that Yosef goes to greet his father in Goshen. When Yosef sees him, he falls on his neck, and they cry. Chazal Questions who cried. Rashi says that Yaakov did not fall on Yosef; alternatively, Yosef fell on his father. Yaakov then says, 'I reached the moment, now I can pass away!' Why then was the greeting so cold without a hug and kiss? Chazzal explain that Yaakov was reading the Shema. However, Why Was Yosefexempt from reciting the shema?
There are many discussions, halachically, why Yosef did not have to recite the Shema. R’ Chaim Brisker explains that Hashem told Yaakov to go to Mitzrayim. Therefore, as long he was not yet in Mitzrayim, he was involved in a mitzvah and is exempt from reciting Shema until he sees Yosef. Now that Yaakov and Yosef met, Yaakov became obliged to say Shema. On the other hand, Yosef should have said Shema earlier. However, the posuk says that Yosef went towards his father, to Goshen, meaning that he was traveling towards Yaakov. So, Yosef did not have to stop as he was involved in the mitzvah of Kibud Av Veam. Why then was Yaakov the only one saying shemah?
The Steipler says that Yosef did not read Shema because he was in the middle of a mitzvah of Kibud av veam. However, when Yaakov saw Yosef, there was no mitzvah; therefore, he had an obligation to recite Shema. R’ Yeruchim speaks about the simple explanation in the posuk and what we learn from it. The Avos, Yaakov, was able to overcome his emotion for love for a mitzvah. If there is a chiyuv, then you must do it. The Musser is that when we read Shema and do not have kavana, what is our excuse?
The Gemrah in Berochos says someone that recites Krias Shema, and he is not careful not to have proper thoughts 'this is not called Yaakov as -Yaakov does not do that.' Take an example from Yaakov.
The Maharal says that the reading in Shema here was not a halachic matter but somewhat symbolic. When Yaakov saw Yosef, out of excitement, he recited the Shema. The ChorkiverRebbe explains that when Yaakov Avenu saw Yosef and realizes that he will have to stay in Mitzrayim, it was not pure and would be a terrible surrounding. Nevertheless, Hashem told him to go, so he went, but the situation was dire. With this, we can explain the series of events. When someone is in a situation where the yetzer harah is after him, he must do three things. One, he has to say, Shema. Two, he must learn the Torah. Three, he must think of the day of death. Yaakov did these three things as the next pasuk states that Yaakov says, ‘I am ready to die.' Now he was protected from all the tumeh and ready to go to Mitzraim. Furthermore, that can be the reason why Yaakov began to recite Shemah when he saw Yosef.
The Maharal gives a different explanation, explaining that Yaakov recited the Shema to express his love towards Hashem. The Taaz questions, why according to the Rosh, was Yaakov not stopping to greet Yosef if one must stop saying shemah for the respect of the king. The Taaz answers that Yaakov was only saying the first part of shemah and therefore was not obligated to interrupt his recitation. However, the Maharal explains that Yaakov recited the shemah because he felt a burst of appreciation towards Hashem for bringing back Yosef. Furthermore, that may be why he proclaimed, "I am ready to die" - meaning from excitement. There are many times that a person can forget Hashem because he is involved with his own emotions. Yaakov did not want this to happen to him. He did not want to forget Hashem, so at the peak of his happiness, he said Shema. That's what it means when it says אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ....יְרוּשָׁלַֽיִם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי. Yaakov did not want to forget Hashem at the peak of his happiness.
The Kotzker Rebbe said that Yaakov experienced the ultimate moment of love and connection. He lost his son and now got his son back. The Chofetz Chaim says that every moment one spends with their kids should be full of love as if it is the last time you are together. Now Yaakov wanted to take the same love and give it to Hashem.
Yaakov learned from this moment that time is limited, and therefore he applied the love that he had for Yosef to Hashem. We can also do the same to apply the love that we have for our children to Hashem, as we are so closely related to Hashem.
While writing the Mishnah Berurah, the Chofetz Chaim's son, R' Leib, passed away. In dealing with the pain, the Choffetz Chaim realized it was from the Yetzer Horah, immediately went over the ethe bima, banged it, and said, 'Yetzer Hora, you are trying to stop me from writing the rest of the sefer. You will not win; I will complete the work.' My Zeidy would add to the story saying, the Chofetz Chaim said, the love for a child is complete and takes all emotions and feelings. A parent must divide that love with the love for Hashem. Now, the attention will be undivided towards Hashem. This, the Chofetz Chaim learned from his mother, who repeated these words when she lost her son during the Spanish inquisition. The Alter of Slabodka for shidduch with a boy in the yeshivah. The alter replied, "This boy is my ben yochid! The person asked, "Didn't you call the other boy your ben yochid” The Alter answered, "every student in my yeshiva is my ben yochid." The alter showed so much love that he could divide his undivided attention that each one gets unconditional love.
Yaakov said the same thing, now that I have the ultimate love for my son, I can take this love for you.
The words Shema are the words that every Jew that dies Al Kiddush Hashem has on their lips. This capability, strength, and devotion to Hashem, at the last moments of breath, comes from Yaakov Avenu instilled in us here at this junction when Yaakov meets Yosef that the greatest love is a father to a child. Nevertheless, at that moment, he can think about the love for Hashem. Similarly, Avraham instilled the Akeida, and Yitzchak instilled Mesiras Nefesh; Yaakov instilled this love for Hashem into our DNA.
The Rambam brings down that the posuk of Shema is followed by the posukBaruch Shem… because that is what Yaakov said.
When Yaakov was told Yosef was alive, he did not believe it. Many Meforshim explain that Yaakov could not believe that Yosef remained an honest Jew in Mitzrayim! Then, Yaakov sees Yosef as the way he was before. That is why the pasuk says Bnee Yosef as Yosef still looked like Yaakov's son. The posuk says ‘Vayera Alov’ – Rashi says Yosef was seen to his father. Rambam explains that it was a technical issue; he was wearing a garb, so Yaakov did not recognize him. After that then Yaakov recognized him. That is why there is an emphasis. Why is it important to have it empathized? Does it matter exactly how it happened?
My Zeidy used to say over from many Balei Mussar that Yosef was on such a high level that it was also not personal when he came to see his father. He did it only so that his father should see him. That is Vayera Eilav.
I would say a different explanation. Externally Yosef looked like an Egyptian king. Yaakov was searching to see the Yosef. Yosef then allowed his father to see the real him, then Yaakov said, now it is the time to thank Hashem and say Shema. Many meforshim explain that he said, ‘Shema YisroelHashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.' Hashem is Middas Harachamim, and Elokeinu is Middas Hadin. Sometimes we see rachamim and sometimes we see middas hadin, but eventually, we see that Rachamim and Din are the same. Hashem is Echod! At the end of life, we look back and start to understand that what we thought was Din was actually so much Rachamim. Yaakov sees Yosef and says, now I understand how it is all one Hashem, the Midas hadin is Midas harachamim!
The Chofetz Chaim used to say, 'Man before he exits the journey in this world will have the chance to look back and get an insight on everything that happened in his life to see that it was actually all good!
Nochum Ish Gamzu, the Gemara says, was called so because he says Gam Zu Letova by the story with the rooster and the fire… The next day he realized the chessed of Hashem. Nochum Ish Gamzu saw the good right away. We also want quick results in life, because we have little patience. Those who say Gam Zu Letova will be able to see it right away.
We can get wrapped up with the situation, what is right, and what is not. Nevertheless, between the lines in all situations, there is a lot of chessed. If a person says gam zu letova and realizes that Hashem Elokeinu is really Hashem Echod then he will be zoche to see the chesed of Hashem.
We read Yosef's story as a nice story but think of the pain he went through! The Shechinah left him all the years that he was mourning. Now that he sees his son, the Shechinah suddenly comes back to him, so he says, Shema. He now recognized that Hashem was here with him.
The daily things we go through in life, the daily struggles we should say to ourselves 'Hashem please show me your hand, and through this, you are holding my hand.'
There is an interesting Chiddah in the Parashas Egla Arufa - when someone goes from one town to another and gets killed. It seems that the Chachomim of the town are responsible since they left him to go without food. Had they fed him; he would not have gotten killed? The Chiddah said that if they had fed him and cared for him, he would be besimcha and would not have the bad mazel to be killed on the road.
Yosef sent back agolos since that was the last thing they were learning, and he wanted to hint to his father that he is still learning and did not forget what they had learned. After 22 years, Yosef should have learned something else. He was hinting to his father, ‘You sent me to my brothers without an escorting.' Yosef showed his father that I was lost but protected for so many years because I was mekabel the nisayon with Simcha. The only time the mazal is not good when a person falls, and he is down. Yosef, on the other hand, kept this message and was protected.
Let us learn from the parasha that the love one could have for Hashem can override all problematic life situations. How can it be that the more yisurim people get, the more they love Hashem? We are like an olive; the more you crush them, the bigger and better you become.
Now that we just ended the Yom Tov of Chanukah I want to end with this thought. The miracles of Chanukah were the oil. How long does it take to make oil, an hour… why does it take eight days? The Meforshim say that they had to squeeze it to get the pure oil. By Chanukah, the more they made us suffer, the closer we became to Hashem. That was the miracle. They thought the more they make us suffer, the more we would act like them. The yids love for Hashem is so strong that the more we get tested, the more it overrides the test and makes us stronger. Shema Yisroel is the words of any dying Jew because the love of Hashem overrides every dying Jew.
My shadchan R’ Yaakov Toledano was the Rosh Yeshiva in Paris. He had a vibrant personality and was a beautiful lecturer. Unfortunately, he got a disease, which made him paralyzed at the end of his life. When I visited him, I saw the way they took him down the stairs and fed him a coffee to drink, I just broke down! He asked me 'why are you crying? You are a Ben Torah, so do not cry, and continued, ‘My sister was not religious; she got influenced by the politics in morocco. The boys managed to leave, so they stayed frum. One day, my sister came to visit and when she saw me like this, she said, ‘you gave up That isife for Torah; is this what you get?’ Rav Toledano answered her the love that I feel for Hashem through my disease is so strong that if I had a choice to have the disease or not, I would take it. That's how much I connected to Hashem with it.’
Yaakov avinu thanked Hashem for all the yesurim because he saw that Hashem was behind it all.
We say Tziduk Hadin, then it is a bracha because we realise that we can thank and appreciate Hashem for it. The ‘Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod’ was not just recognition that Hashem is Hashem Echod, but it was a shevach and praise. For everything that Yaakov went through in his life, he thanked Hashem. That came from when he took all the emotion he had for his son and gave it to Hashem. Hashem is the father, and we love him in every situation.
Every day when we say Shema, we should be mekabal the love of Hashem!