Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yaakov and Yosef; Eglah and Agalos

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav (Daf Yomi: Sotah 46b): Whoever escorts his fellow four amos in the city, insures that no harm will come to him during his journey.

The Maharal uses our Gemora to explain the famous Medrash. It is written [Breishis 45:27]: And he (Yaakov) saw the wagons that Yosef had sent to carry him. Chazal say: The Hebrew word “agalah,” wagon, is similar to the word “eglah,” calf. Yosef was hinting to his father that he was alive by making a reference to the eglah arufah, which was the last topic of Torah that Yaakov and Yosef had studied together before Yosef was sold as a slave.

The Maharal notes: It cannot be merely coincidence that they were studying that passage, for if so, how would Yosef know that Yaakov would remember that it was this precise topic that they were studying together before he left.

Rather, this is what transpired: Yaakov was escorting Yosef to Chevron. Yosef said to him: Go back to the house and do not trouble yourself. Yaakov responded that it is a great mitzvah for one to escort another in the beginning of a journey. If one does not escort his friend, it is regarded as if he spilled his blood. One who does escort his fellow insures that no harm will befall him on his journey. It was through this that Yosef realized that Yaakov will definitely remember the topic of Torah that they were studying, for he will remember escorting him out of the city. It was for this reason that Yosef sent the wagons. He was indicating to his father that he was not damaged in any manner, physically or spiritually, and that it was due to the fact that Yaakov escorted him out of the city.

Rabbi Yissochar Frand explains the Medrash differently: He states that a profound lesson is learned from Yosef and Yaakov. When Yosef wanted to give irrefutable proof to his father Yaakov that he was indeed Yosef, the incontrovertible piece of evidence he presented was the Torah portion that they were studying together. Serious Jews identify themselves by the Torah discussion that they were having at a certain time; not by any mundane activities that they were enjoying together. Yosef identified himself to Yaakov by the essence of Jewish identity - the Torah topic that they last discussed.