A TEN-STRINGED INSTRUMENT AND A LYRE
By Roy S. Neuberger
As I have mentioned in the past, this week’s parsha is to me the emotional high point of the entire Chumash. I am unable to stop at the end of Mikeitz; I must always continue into Vayigash, until I reach the following words:
“Now Yosef could not restrain himself in the presence of all who attended him, so he called out, ‘Make everyone withdraw from me!’ Thus no one remained with him when Yosef made himself known to his brothers. He cried uncontrollably…. And Yosef said to his brothers, ‘I am Yosef. Does my father still live?’” (Artscroll translation)
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l comments, “Such uncontrolled sobbing is a manifestation of deep feeling [and] great sincerity.”
Yosef, the King of Mitzraim, cried in public! Can you imagine the drama, the palpable heartbeat of history which pulsed through this room? Can you imagine the awe and shock on the faces of the brothers? Can you imagine the heart-rending sobs emanating from Yosef?
Yosef had been able to restrain himself twice before. He “turned away from [his brothers] and wept; [then] he returned and spoke to them.” (Beraishis 42:24) And similarly, “Yosef rushed, because his compassion for his brother had been stirred and he wanted to weep, so he went into the room and wept there. He washed his face and went out…” (Beraishis 43:30)
How was it that, at this time, “he could not restrain himself?”
Let’s hold that question for a few seconds.
Is it osur for a Jew to display emotion? I don’t think so. Not only are we permitted to express emotion, but we are expected to express emotion! “Al naharos Bavel … By the rivers of Bavel, there we sat and also wept when we remembered Tzion…” (Tehillim 137)
“[Chazal] said: All those who mourn for Yerushalayim will merit to witness her joy, and [all those] who do not mourn for Yerushalayim will not [merit to] witness her joy.” (Taanis 30b)
Chazal tell us, “One who gives much and one who gives little [are equally pleasing to Hashem], provided he directs his heart to heaven.” (Berachos 5b) But the heart must be directed. As Dovid Hamelech says to Hashem, “You examined my heart … You tested me.” (Tehillim 17:3)
“Hakadosh Baruch Hu desires the heart.”
Emotion is a derech, a path toward serving Hashem. But it has to be directed; we cannot let emotion direct us. We say in Shema, “Do not go after your heart and your eyes, after which you stray.” The heart is vital, but it cannot lead. The Shema mentions the heart in connection with tzitzis. If the heart is governed by the Taryag Mitzvos – represented by the tzitzis – it will assist us. But if the heart governs, it will lead us astray, chas v’Shalom.
Our possuk says, “Yosef could not restrain himself.” What does that mean? What happened?
“It would appear … that Yosef had not planned as yet to divulge his identity, but he could no longer restrain himself.” (Ibn Ezra) Our son, Reb Aharon Yaakov, heard Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler Shlita”h, state in the name of his father, Rabbi Schneur zt”l, that we can learn from these words that Yosef was indeed not ready to reveal himself at this time.
Why was Yosef unable to restrain himself?
I would like to speculate that it was because of his overwhelming desire for reconciliation with his brothers. When it came to resisting aishes Potiphar (see Baraishis 39:7ff), he summoned super-human strength, but when it came to reconciliation with his brothers – when Yehuda opened a door by which Yosef could justify revealing his identity – Yosef’s emotion became so strong that he revealed himself ever-so-slightly before he was ready, perhaps before his brothers’ teshuva was complete.
Perhaps not only Yehuda, but all the brothers were to have been required to show their willingness to reverse their previous deeds, to show regret for their actions by a willingness to sacrifice themselves the way Yehuda was willing to sacrifice himself for Binyomin. Perhaps at that point, reconciliation would have been complete and mechilla would have been completely effective. But that moment was not reached, at least not then. As a result, Yosef’s revelation appears to have been premature. The proof may be the fact that this reconciliation led directly to Golus Mitzraim, the archetypal Golus for Am Yisroel!
“Maase Avos siman l’bonim …the Fathers’ actions are a sign for the children.” Down the road of history, the evil seed of discord sprouted once again in the catastrophic events of Churban Bayis Shaini and the agonizing Golus in which we find ourselves today, all rooted in “sinas chinom … unwarranted hatred” among the brothers. It had never been completely eradicated!
My friends, let us make no mistake. A day is coming when reconciliation will be a complete reality. In the Chapter of Tehillim beginning “Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbos,” Dovid Hamelech mentions two musical instruments, “asor” and “navel,” a “ten stringed instrument and a lyre.” These will make perfect harmony on the Day which is all Shabbos.
I wonder whether the “ten-stringed instrument” is keneged Aseres Hashvatim, the “Ten Lost Tribes,” and the lyre is keneged Yehuda and Binyomin, the two remaining shvatim. Yehuda is the brother who was willing to sacrifice himself for Binyomin, and Binyomin is the only brother who did not participate in selling Yosef! The classic lyre has two arms reaching upward, like someone reaching out toward reconciliation!
On “the Day which is completely Shabbos,” all the shvatim will be reunited. Eternal harmony will prevail among the brothers. Then Yosef’s “restraint” will become unnecessary, Golus will be over; an eternal era of brotherhood will have enveloped Am Yisroel, Eretz Yisroel and – in fact – the entire world.
May we see it soon in our days!
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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2017 by Roy S. Neuberger