Vayigash remains one of my favorite passages. First, it was my Bar Mitzvah portion. Of even greater significance is the fact that it contains one of the greatest dramatic scenes in Jewish literature; the culmination of the revelation of Joseph to his brothers and his first question of ha’od avi chai…is my father alive?
The father-son theme has been discussed for centuries; from Torah and Tanach texts, to Greek mythology to Star Wars. The mother-daughter issues as well. It seems so much literature revolves around these basic themes of parents and children. Indeed, one of the key issues we see in our work is the challenge of dealing with, adjusting to and relating with our adult children.
Another key aspect in the text is the word from which the portion is named: v’yigash. Plaut translates this opening word as “went up”. The word appears in another form later on in this portion (45:4) as Joseph saying to his brothers “draw near to me” (g’shu li) and the brothers drew near or came near to him (va’yigashu). The word has this sense of drawing close or near and so that had me think of what we, at this stage of life we draw near?
What do we seek to be close to? What or who do we wish to have come closer? Is is family? Is it God or a sense of being part of something greater than our self? Is it a heightened sense of meaning or search for meaning knowing that our time is limited? It is worthwhile to ask our self and soul to what or to whom we wish to draw close. Our relationships now become more precious. Perhaps or priorities change as well? This “fourth age” of life demands a new approach to living. Draw near to that which brings us joy, peace and meaning.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.