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Parshat Vayigash - Reaching beyond yourself

Reb Shlomo Carlebach

on Parsha Vayigash

 “And G-d has sent me ahead of you

To insure your survival in the land

- Genesis 45:7


Reaching Beyond Yourself

I want to open your hearts to something very deep.


The whole world is talking today about ‘realizing your potential’, which is a good idea, why not? If you are normally using only ten percent of your head and you discover a way to use one hundred percent of it, then why not? But this is not what I mean. As far as I’m concerned, this is still foreign.


Do you know what G-d wants of us? G-d doesn’t want me to be exactly what I can be. G-d wants me to be so much more. A dog can only be a dog, an apple can only be an apple. Cheesecake will always be cheesecake. Do you know what G-d wants of me? G-d wants me to reach beyond myself, which is so much deeper than just meeting my potential.


The question is, how does one master this? How do you get there?


You don’t reach beyond yourself by reading a book, or even by learning and listening. You will still be just yourself. When do you reach beyond yourself? There are moments when you have the opportunity to do something for another human being, beyond yourself. It is at those moments when I can grow two billion miles in a second.


Everyone today is into assertive training. l Imagine I come up to heaven and say “G-d, I hope you realize, I took this assertive training seminar, you better talk to me straight, really. I’ll assert myself. You’ll be so proud of me. I never let my children get away with anything. I always assert myself. My wife and me, our relationship is unbelievable. We both took assertive training, and thank G-d, we are not only getting divorced once, we are getting divorced four hundred times a day.”


Let me ask you something friends, when I have a chance to yell at somebody, when I have the opportunity of tearing somebody apart, but at that moment I say ‘no, master of the world, I’m not going there’. Do you know where I’m reaching? I’m reaching way beyond myself.


If parents would know that each time they are about to yell at their children, that it’s their biggest opportunity to reach above… they wouldn’t yell. Whenever someone asks me for favor and it’s something which is hard for me to do, do you know what happens to me when I am doing it? I’m not doing them a favor, I’m doing me a favor. This is a great moment given to me by G-d to reach beyond myself, and to grow two million miles in one second.


Sometimes you meet a person and they really look a little creepy to you. When you meet them the next day, they look so different. What happened during those 24 hours? Very simple. They could have yelled at somebody, but they chose not to, and they grew two million miles.


I heard from one of the Bobover chassidim who said like this. “I was in Bobov for twenty-five years, and every Friday night, when the Rebbe would walk in, I didn’t recognize him. He had grown millions of miles.”


Do you know why children are so discouraged with their parents? Their parents may have taken this assertiveness training course, and they may have read every book on parenting, but you know what? Children are growing, and while they are growing, their parents look the same to them from the day they were born. Do you know what kind of opportunity our children give us every day to reach beyond ourselves?


I want you to know something deeper. When I have every reason to yell at somebody and I don’t, I reach beyond myself. But you know what happens to the person I could have yelled at? I take them with me.


And here I want to share with you from Reb Nachman, which is awesome. Do you know what the hardest thing in the world is? Not to be angry. Reb Nachman says that at that moment when I can yell at you and I don’t, I lift you up as well. I can take the lowest person and lift them up to high heaven. Reb Nachman says, if you are close enough that what they are doing actually bothers you, you can lift them up as well.


If you tell me that a stranger did something wrong to another stranger, I have to tell you the sad truth, and this is not a good side of me, It doesn’t bother me so much It should, but it doesn’t. But if I’m so close to you and it bothers me so much that I am angry at you like crazy, what it really means is that I’m that close to you. And if I’m that close to you, I’m also close enough to lift you up.


You see what it is, it’s not enough anymore to just realize your potential. What the world needs for us for you, for me, is to reach beyond ourselves and lift each other up. Mamash, we have no other choice.

Good Shabbos!

Reb Shlomo on Parshas Vayigash -How Can I Ever Return?

"For how can I go up to my father?" (Bereishis 44:34)

What happened when Yehuda stood before Yosef? He mamesh knew that this was the end for him. He saw that he had lost his share in the Coming World, because if Binyamin had to stay in Egypt, he could not go back to Ya'akov. How could he return to his father without Binyamin? He might as well commit suicide - he had absolutely nothing more to do in this world. And suddenly he realized, " Gevalt, for my whole life, from the beginning until now, everything I've done was wrong..."

So what did he do? He asks Yosef, "Eich e'eleh el Avi?" - How can I go back to my father? Yosef thought he was talking about Ya'akov. But you see what it is, Yehuda wasn't really standing before Yosef. He was mamesh standing before God. And he was really saying to the Ribbono Shel Olam, "How can I ever face You, my Father? I've done everything wrong my whole life..."

And this was the very moment that Yehuda reached the level of the Mashiach coming through his descendants. Before that he was also very holy and great, but he was not on the level of becoming the Messiah. You can only reach the level of Mashiach when you realize that everything you did until this very moment was wrong. Yehuda was mamesh crying out to God, "Why did you put me in this world if everything I do is wrong?"

You see what it is, with this big "Gevalt!" Yehuda mamesh changed the whole history of the world. Suddenly God opened the gates for him, and showed him that not only was nothing wrong - everything was one hundred percent right.

And this friends, this is the real meaning of tshuvah

מד:יח וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה, וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי, יְדַבֶּר-נָא עַבְדְּךָ דָבָר בְּאָזְנֵי אֲדֹנִי, וְאַל-יִחַר אַפְּךָ בְּעַבְדֶּךָ: כִּי כָמוֹךָ, כְּפַרְעֹה

44:18 Then Judah approached him, and said: 'Oh my lord, I pray thee, your servant, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant; for you are as Pharaoh.

As we have learned a number of times, the Chassidic masters see every verse in the Torah as containing allusions and teachings on how to serve Hashem; in addition to ‘pshat’ – the literal meaning of the texts, there is also ‘remez’ – the spiritual lessons that are hinted and alluded to, within the texts. The straightforward meaning of the opening verse of our parsha is quite clear. However, on the level of ‘remez’, the holy Zohar teaches, וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה is about Yehuda the lowly shepherd, approaching Him- Hashem, in prayer. Yehuda who knowingly has made so many terrible mistakes in his life dares to plead with Hashem. Hence the Chassidic masters see this verse as containing lessons of utmost importance to all of us- ‘how do you approach Hashem in prayer, when and even though you have done so much wrong?’

The holy Rizhiner Rebbe זצ"ל explains that this verse teaches man how to find some merit on his own behalf when he gets up to daaven to Hashem. [In the Talmud we learn that word ויגש – vayigash, connotes prayer.] Let him say to Hashem, “please my Master, listen to my prayer. Please do not be angry with me; please do not reject me, saying, “Where did you get so much ‘chutzpah’ to think that such a lowlife as yourself sullied and tainted with so many terrible transgressions, has any right to stand before the great and awesome King, Hakadosh baruch Hu?” To this I answer כִּי כָמוֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹה – behold, You who are the King over all kings of kings, You know that just like You gave us a pure soul, which is a part of Hashem from above, You also gave us the aspect of כְּפַרְעֹה – behaving stubbornly like Pharoah- you gave us a ‘yetzer hara’, an evil inclination that constantly tries to take us away from serving You. But You know, that we in our deepest essence want to truthfully serve You. In this merit, we ask that You listen to the voice of our prayers.

I found a very similar teaching is also found in the name of the Shpoler Zaideh, in the sefer “Divrei Sholom”, by Reb Sholom son of Reb Baruch Mordechai, the Rebbe of Kaidanov. The Divrei Sholom explains further, that before you begin your davening, before you bring your words of praise to Hashem, before you daaven (- the name Yehudah means to praise Hashem,) ask for His permission and help to speak sincere words that He will accept. Likewise, in the blessing of ברוך שאמר we say that “we shall praise You, glorify You and extol Your greatness” – the Divrei Sholom teaches that these should be read as a prayer- “Hashem, please allow us to praise You, Please allow us to glorify You and extol Your holy Name.”

In the first Mishna of Chapter 5, in Tractate Brachot, it states חסידים הראשונים היו שוהים שעה אחת ומתפללים, כדי שיכוונו את ליבם למקום - ‘the early Chassidim used to spend an hour before daavening in preparation to pray before Hashem with a focused heart.’ The Divrei Sholom quotes one of his ancestors who taught that during that hour they were praying for Hashem’s permission and help to pray with ‘kavvanah’- clear focused intention.

▪ Often, almost always, it is so hard to daaven without being disturbed and distracted by all kinds of ‘foreign thoughts’ – מחשבות זרות. When that happens, it is advised to stop for a moment and say “Ribono shel Olam, Master of the World, I want to daaven, please, even if only for one minute, help me to put my heart and mind into the words of my prayers.”. It’s not enough to just say our prayers, we have to want to daaven, we have to pray to daaven.

וַיֶּאְסֹר יוֹסֵף מֶרְכַּבְתּוֹ וַיַּעַל לִקְרַאת יִשְׂרָאֵל אָבִיו גּשְׁנָה וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוָּארָיו וַיֵּבְךְּ עַל צַוָּארָיו עוד

And Joseph harnessed his chariot, and he went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and he appeared to him, and he (Yosef) fell on his neck, and he (Yosef) wept on his neck for a long time. Bereishis 46:29

What about Yaakov? What was he doing? Rashi brings an amazing explanation:

“and he wept on his neck for a long time”:

… he {Yosef} wept greatly and continuously, more than was usual. Jacob, however, neither fell on Joseph’s neck nor kissed him. Our Sages said that he was reciting the Shema.

This is truly amazing! Why was Yaakov Avinu saying the Shma just then? Surely, he must have been jumping out of his skin from joy! Seeing Yosef for the first time after mourning over him for the last 22 years- how could he not be overcome with intense love and joy? Yaakov Avinu, how could you hold back such strong emotions and say the Shma, davka at that moment?

The Divrei Sholom presents a well-known Chassidic explanation. We have received from the holy Baal Shem Tov and from his holy disciples, that it is only because Hashem created love and fear that we can experience love and fear. We must know that it is by Divine Providence that our emotions are aroused. When you find yourself aroused with love or fear, know that Hashem sent you this arousal just now, because this is exactly what you need to serve Hashem with, right now. It is with this particular arousal of your love, fear or any other emotion that you are to come closer to Hashem.

The Rebbes say that without any doubt, Yaakov Avinu experienced intense love and joy in meeting Yosef- how could he not? He had never before had such an intense arousal of love and joy. He had never expressed his love for Hashem with as much passion and love as he was experiencing in reuniting with his most beloved son, Yosef. So he used this opportunity to say the Shma right then and there, to express his love for Hashem with this utmost intensity – it would not have been the same a minute later.

Can you imagine how Yaakov Avinu was saying the Shma at that moment? Do you think he was just having an exclusive personal moment with Hashem? ‘Chas v’Shalom’! Heaven forefend! Holy people always pray “in the name of all of Israel”. Yaakov Avinu surely brought Yosef and all his children and descendants into this most joyous and loving moment of unification with Hashem. But why did Yosef cry? [Why wasn’t he saying the Shma?]

Have you ever experienced being in the presence of a holy tzaddik or tzadeikes and just starting to cry? I hope you have. Why did you cry? Because at that moment your neshamah was experiencing unification with Hashem and when that happens, you cry from joy and love.

When Yaakov Avinu was saying Shma he brought Yosef along with him into this intense loving and joyous unification with Hashem, and Yosef was overcome with such holy love and joy that his neshamah naturally started to cry!

May we be blessed that our souls should touch each other so deeply that our eyes should fill with joyous and loving tears. Let us welcome Moshiach Now – and without a doubt our eyes will fill with tears of joy and love. Amen.

The 10th of Tevet

On the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tevet, in the year 3336 from Creation (425 BCE), the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later—on 9 Tammuz 3338—the city walls were breached, and on 9 Av of that year the Holy Temple was destroyed. The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for 70 years.

The 10th of Tevet (this year, January 8, 2017) is observed as a day of fasting, mourning and repentance. We refrain from food and drink from daybreak to nightfall, and add selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. The fast ends at nightfall or as soon as you see three medium sized stars in the sky. Read more

from previous years

בס"ד פ' ויגש

The Kedushas Levi explains that Yehudah’s prayer was that Hashem should reveal His kindness in this horrible situation that he now found himself in.

A Jew believes that Hashem is good, and that all that he does is for the good and is good. But, His goodness is so often concealed within tragic and painful events. When it comes to ‘personal’ issues such as family, health and livelihood, we need to take leaps of faith and try to joyously accept that it is all for the good. [‘personal’ - i.e., don’t be religious on someone else’s back; help the poor don’t give them a lecture about believing in G-d.]

There is a teaching in the Tanya ch. 26 ,לג. that ‘concealed good’ is higher than ‘revealed good’, for it comes from the hidden world [which emanates from the letters yod-hei of the Tetragrammaton.] Paradoxically, accepting that all is for the good, does not mean ‘passively just accept it all’ and not do anything to improve the situation. On the contrary! You must do everything you can to make it better!

What joy can we find in the harsh and painful realities of life? The Alter Rebbe teaches: the best and greatest joy is “the joy of desiring the nearness of G-d, more than anything, in the life of this world, as it is written, “Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life…” (PS. 63:4), and the nearness of G-d is infinitely stronger and more sublime in the ‘hidden world’.”

I admit that these sublime words are far beyond my pedestrian levels of understanding; yet I do need to try to understand them on my level. Thinking about the meaning of being near to G-d I remembered a special encounter I had with a patient at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. It was about 35 years ago when I took my Grade 5 class at SSA to visit the patients and sing Chanukah songs for them. It was very special to see the joy in their eyes as they listened to these ten year old kids singing songs of faith, joy and courage. Harry, wanted to thank us personally for our visit. Harry was considerably younger that all the other patients and he was actually dressed in in his own clothes. He explained that he was waiting to get into a hospice, but in the meantime the only open bed in the hospital was on the Geriatric ward.

Leaning close to me he told me in a quiet voice that was diagnosed with a terminal illness; may we all be well. I wanted to say something positive and comforting, but I had no idea what I could possibly tell him. Harry realized how I felt and before I could say anything, he said, “Please don’t feel sorry for me, you don’t have to. Do you know why? Because G-d is cradling me in His arms, the entire time. I feel very close with G-d, I feel His love and I speak with Him all the time.”

The elevators were arriving and we had to leave. Quickly we embraced and said goodbye as we blessed each other with the very best, b’ezrat Hashem. You might expect that Harry was a religiously observant Jew, but he told me that he had grown without any Jewish education. Though he knew very little about Torah and mitzvot and rarely went to shul more than three days a year, he felt very Jewish all his life. It was through his illness that he discovered and developed a very close and meaningful relationship with Hashem.

Strange as it may seem, he was thankful for his illness, because the closeness with Hashem that he was now experiencing was more meaningful and fulfilling than anything else he had ever experienced in his life. I imagine that the closer he came to Hashem, the more he wished to heal; more for the sake of Hashem’s glory and honor than for his own self.

“Le’katchila aribber” – obstacles are Divine invitations to go higher and deeper. The Rebbe Maharas”h, the 4th Lubavitcher זצ"ל taught that the original stance to take in the face of obstacles, is “Le’katchila aribber” - to rise above and ‘over’ the obstacle. Though sometimes you may have to go around them or back away from them, first, as Reb Shlomo זצ"ל used to say, ‘go higher and deeper’ and ‘come closer to Hashem’.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” This well-known aphorism is true both in the physical and spiritual realms of life. In His compassion Hashem places obstacles on our paths to confront us and to teach us how to come near to Him and to one another. We can see many examples of this in our own lives. Life and growth is always pushing the boundaries.

At the end of parshat Mikeitz, when the brothers were arrested by Yosef’s office manager, the brothers pronounced the death penalty on whoever stole Joseph’s goblet, as well as slavery upon themselves. When the goblet was found in Binyamin’s sack, they rent their clothes. When Yosef confronted them over their crime Yehuda responded saying, ‘What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants; behold, we are my lord's bondmen, both we, and he also in whose hand the cup is found.' (Bereishis 44:16)

Yehuda had deceived his father in the past and now Hashem, via Yosef, is confronting Yehuda with deception. Yehuda’s first response was to recognize the Divine retribution in the unfolding of events. Probably thinking that it was all ‘measure for measure’ he confessed his guilt, acknowledging that he deserved it.

But is that enough? Is it enough to see the victim [Yosef] rise to power and the fall of the sinner? No it is not! And so Hashem, via Yosef says to him, 'Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the goblet is found, he shall be my bondman; but as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.' – Yehuda, can you end the story here? Will feeling guilty and accepting retribution be enough for you to go up in peace to your father? Will this be enough to cleanse you of deception?

“Vayigash eilav Yehuda” – Yehuda realizes that he must come closer to Him. He realizes that in all that he had done he had deceived himself of the truth of his soul essence. בי אדוני – bee adonee - You, my Master, you are within me; my soul is a part of You, and I exiled You from my consciousness. I deceived myself, thinking that the important thing in life is competition and me being the winner. How can I possibly go back to my father without my brother? I want to live and know and feel בי אדוני that You are present within me. Hashem I wish to come close to You, please accept my prayer.

“Then Joseph could not refrain himself …. and Joseph made himself known unto his brethren’. – Hashem could no longer resist Yehuda’s sincere desire to be near to Him. The obstacle/invitation was then removed the Divine presence was revealed.

Classes Broadcast This Week:

Sources: with R Avraham Sutton

Parshat HaShavua: with R Sholom Brodt

Parshat Vayigash: Teachings From Previous Years

▪ Restoring Peace and Harmony

▪ Joseph’s Heritage To Every Jew – To arouse holiness within others and ourselves.

▪ Fixing Relationships, Rebuilding Broken Homes


▪ Yehuda's Teachings: Bee Adoni

▪ Yosef's Teachings

▪ He Saw The Wagons, and The Spirit Of Their Father Yaakov Was Revived

Restoring Peace and Harmony

In this week's parsha Yosef and his brothers and Yaakov’s entire family finally reunite. The great question is how did they manage to do it? Most of us have yet to forgive those who have caused us far less harm and suffering than that which Yosef received at the hands of his brothers. I hope that the lessons we learn from this parsha will help us receive deeper insights into this most important issue in our lives.

Joseph’s Heritage To Every Jew – To arouse holiness within others and ourselves.

"This is Joseph's heritage to every Jew. In his act of feeding his family in a time of famine, despite all their wrongs towards him, he has given us the power to reach beyond the surface of our fellow Jew, with all its superficial failings, and to penetrate to the core of his being and respond to its fundamental holiness. And when we treat another Jew in this way, we arouse that core of holiness in him, and in ourselves as well, so that in time it breaks through its coverings, and the essence of our soul stands revealed." [Torah Studies p. 70. Adapted from Likkutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l. Vol V pp. 239-50]

Fixing Relationships, Rebuilding Broken Homes


Can you imagine forgiving your own brothers who wanted to kill you, but instead they threw you into a pit full of snakes and scorpions? And when they saw you were still alive, instead of leaving you to die, they sold you into slavery. Could you ever forgive them? Is such a thing possible? What would it take on their part? On your part? If you believe all this is possible, if you would like to believe it's possible, if you want to learn the secrets of reconciliation and re-unification- learn this parsha well, many times, again and again until Moshiach arrives. Whether you are Yehudah, the one who made all the mistakes, or whether you are Yosef, the righteous one- this week's parsha is for you! It contains all the secrets you need to know: the secret of never giving up, the secrets of prayer and being a Jew, the secret of Tshuvah. We need holy imagination! We need holy ‘chutzpah’.