VAYIGASH (Genesis, 44:18-47:27) — “When GOOD Things Happen to Good People”

“Where was G-d during the Holocaust?” “Why do children die?” “Why do evil people succeed?” 

Difficult questions. Painful and gut-wrenching questions. Questions that I won’t even try to answer. 

But there is another set of questions that are not asked as often: “Why did G-d miraculously save a particular person or family during the Holocaust?” “The cancer was all over the patient. We had extensive x-ray and biopsy results.  Why did the cancer disappear?!”  “Why did those two missiles miss that Israeli airplane in Kenya?” 

Isn’t it a shame that we tend to remember G-d only when things aren’t going right?


Jacob was amazed. He had spent the last twenty-two years mourning his beloved son Joseph. Joseph’s ripped and bloodstained robe had been brought to him. His son had surely been torn to shreds by a wild animal. Now he received the message that Joseph was alive and well in Egypt. 

Jacob packed his bags. “How wonderful! My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die!” (Genesis, 45:28) 

Try to imagine the feelings of joy and excitement. For twenty-two years Jacob had refused to be consoled. …”I will go down to my grave mourning for my son.” (Ibid. 37:35) 

His sorrow was so all-encompassing that it caused his spirit of prophecy to depart from him. His life had been spent in constant depression. And now, he was going to Egypt to see his long-lost son!  What a Simcha!  

This was obviously a very emotional time for Joseph as well. The Torah describes the reunion: Joseph . . . went to greet his father . . . he appeared before him, and threw himself on his shoulders, and wept on his shoulders for a long time. (Ibid, 46:29-30) 

Interestingly, the Torah seems to describe only the emotions of Joseph. There is no mention of what Jacob did. No tears. No hugs. No kisses. Jacob appears to be the stoic recipient of Joseph’s impassioned embrace. 

Rashi tells us that while Joseph was crying on Jacob’s shoulders, Jacob was reciting the Shema. These passages, confirming our belief that there is but One G-d, are recited every morning and evening. Jacob was fulfilling the Mitzvah of saying this prayer. 

This is amazing. You haven’t seen your son in twenty-two years. You thought he was dead.The last twenty-two years of your life have been torture. Your years of torment are over. You have your son back. Couldn’t you wait a few minutes and find a better time to Daven?! 

NO! Jacob could NOT find a better time. This was the high point of his life. This was a time of unbridled joy and thanksgiving. G-d had just given Jacob a new lease on life. His sorrow was over. Jacob was overwhelmed with ecstasy and exhilaration. But there would be time for celebration and socializing later. 

This moment belonged to G-d.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links. 



“The Stimulus Package” (2009) 

… Pharaoh took over everything.  He now owned a 20% interest in every farm in Egypt.  And how did the Egyptians react to the news?  They welcomed it! …


Read more.


“What is a Jew?” (2003)  

Yehudi – Jew.  It is a word that appears relatively late in the Bible.  The Torah usually calls us Yisrael – Israel, or Ivrim – Hebrews… 

One reason we are now called Yehudim (plural of Yehudi) is that most people who identify as part of our Nation are descendants of the Tribe of Judah…

Not everything in Judah’s life was a source of pride…

What is a Yehudi – a Jew? 

I have three answers.  A Yehudi is a person who…

Read more.


“When GOOD Things Happen to Good People” (2002) 

… You haven’t seen your son in twenty-two years. You thought he was dead. The last twenty-two years of your life have been torture. Your years of torment are over. You have your son back. Couldn’t you wait a few minutes and find a better time to Daven?!… 

Read more.


“Chanukah Leftovers” (2001) 

… The smell of latkes is slowly dissipating from our homes.  The jelly donuts have left their stains on our shirts and their calories on our girths.  Another Chanukah has been consigned to our memories and photo albums.  Now what? 

It’s time to clean up our Menorahs.  (If we didn’t do it yet!)  We have to deal with our Chanukah surplus.  Not every millimeter of every candle has been melted.  Not every ounce of olive oil has been burnt.  What should we do with the leftover oil?  Salad dressing? Some popcorn, perhaps?  One final batch of latkes so the potatoes and oil don’t go to waste? … 

Read more.


“Staying ‘On the Wagon’ ” (2000) 

… Imagine for a moment Jacob’s intense grief and anguish. For twenty-two years he had been separated from his beloved son Joseph. As far as he knew, a wild animal had attacked Joseph, and all that remained of him was a torn and bloody robe. During this painful time, Jacob refused to allow himself to be consoled… 

Now, twenty-two years later, Joseph’s eleven brothers have returned from Egypt with wonderful news. Joseph has been found; he is alive and well. And, he has made it “big!” He is second only to the King of Egypt. He is rich, famous, and powerful. 

Jacob refuses to believe the story.  It just can’t be true.  Not after all these years!  Finally, however, the convincing proof presents itself… 

Read more.


This is the weekly message at Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel ( and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.


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Published in: on December 11, 2002 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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