Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Vayigash 2018: Yaakov the Lumberjack and Avrohom the Arboriculturist

In the past nine years, only one time did the Oisvorfer begin a parsha review with the news of someone’s passing. Ober, over Chanukah when the lights of the menora were kindled nightly, one bright light was extinguished, the world lost a giant of a man. A man who accomplished more in one lifetime than the work of many combined. Rabbi Moshe Gottesman, father of chaver and yidid Shlomo Gottesman passed away on December 3rd, the 2nd night of Chanukah at the age of 86 leaving behind his eishes chayil, Mrs. Sondra Gottesman, and a very extended family of children, grandchildren and grandchildren.

For the thousands of his former students, campers, friends and others, who could not make it to either levaya, which was attended by close to 1000 people locally and another 400 in Israel, Shlomo’s hesped can be seen and heard by clicking here.

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

Yaakov the Lumberjack and Avrohom the Arboriculturist:


What the hec is an arboriculturist you ask, or should? Zicher it’s not a word we learned in yeshiva. An arboriculturist is a professional in the practice of arboriculture which is the cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines and other perennial woody plants in dendrology and horticulture. Mamish a mouthful. In plain English: an arborist is a tree surgeon and lumber jack, a person who cuts down trees. And what are these people and things doing in our parsha? Let’s find out.


Arguably the most emotional family reunion in history is recounted in this week’s electrifying parsha of Vayigash (incidentally the Oisvorfer’s bar mitzvah parsha). Following a conspiracy which had begun 22 years earlier when the -not yet- holy shevotim decided -on their own- that their little brother Yoisef was deserving of death, and after they went soft, and instead sold him into slavery, with the help and guidance of the RBSO, Yoisef eventually rose to become the Viceroy of Mitzrayim (Egypt). We read that part last week. This week, the boys are forced to come clean to their father and admit that Yoisef is very much alive. If ever there was a parsha you should read, it’s Vayigash. Of course you can go back to archives and review prior postings from the heylige Oisvorfer. There you will find a good number of very interesting medroshim on certain events in the parsha: they are mamish givaldig and can be found at www.oisvorfer.com.


Ober this year, our 9th time around the parsha, we will focus on but one, or efsher -space permitting- two interesting topics that mistama you never paid much attention to. Lommer unfangin (let’s begin). Yoisef has revealed himself to his brothers. Incidentally, a number of medroshim insist that Yoisef revealed himself literally in order convince them that he was indeed their brother. He showed them his royal scepter, if you chap. He has given them instructions on what to tell their father upon their return home. They are to tell him to pack his bags and belongings -animals included- and bring the entire mishpocho back to Mitzrayim (Egypt) where he will feed and take good care of them. He sends wagons laden with food and clothing. The boys head back to break the news to their now elderly father. Yaakov is 130 years old. Says the heylige Toirah:


9. Hasten and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘So said your son, Yoisef: “G-d has made me a lord over all the Egyptians. Come down to me, do not tarry.   טמַֽהֲרוּ֘ וַֽעֲל֣וּ אֶל־אָבִי֒ וַֽאֲמַרְתֶּ֣ם אֵלָ֗יו כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ בִּנְךָ֣ יוֹסֵ֔ף שָׂמַ֧נִי אֱלֹהִ֛ים לְאָד֖וֹן לְכָל־מִצְרָ֑יִם רְדָ֥ה אֵלַ֖י אַל־תַּֽעֲמֹֽד:

10. And you shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children and your grandchildren, and your flocks and your cattle and all that is yours.
  יוְיָֽשַׁבְתָּ֣ בְאֶֽרֶץ־גּ֗שֶׁן וְהָיִ֤יתָ קָרוֹב֙ אֵלַ֔י אַתָּ֕ה וּבָנֶ֖יךָ וּבְנֵ֣י בָנֶ֑יךָ וְצֹֽאנְךָ֥ וּבְקָֽרְךָ֖ וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר־לָֽךְ


Yoisef’s instructions to his brothers are clear: hurry up, go back and tell dad to get back here ASAP. Ober does Yaakov listen? The last time Yaakov received instructions -from both his mother and father- was a few parshas back. Yaakov had angered his brother Eisav -twice- in one parsha. Eisav was plotting to kill him. Rivka, Yaakov’s fast thinking mama and father Yitzchok, instructed him to run. To go to Padan Arom and to find himself a suitable wife. Did Yaakov listen to them? Not! Instead, he -according to many a medrish- spent the next 14 years on the lam over at the yeshiva of Shaim and Ever. Why he did that, ver veyst? Ober it’s clear that he arrived to Padan Arom only 14 years later. That story took place approximately 50 years earlier. Yaakov was 63 years old when he left his parent’s house.  Let’s roll forward to Vayigash. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 46:1), azoy:


1.       And Israel and all that was his set out and came to Beer Sheba, and he slaughtered sacrifices to the G-d of his father Yitzchok. אוַיִּסַּ֤ע יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ וַיָּבֹ֖א בְּאֵ֣רָה שָּׁ֑בַע וַיִּזְבַּ֣ח זְבָחִ֔ים לֵֽאלֹהֵ֖י אָבִ֥יו יִצְחָֽק:


Be’er Sheva? Why did Yaakov go there? Yoisef was awaiting his father over in Goishen, Mitzrayim, and Yaakov instead went to Be’er Sheva which, as we all know, is located inside of Israel (then K’nan)!? What’s pshat here? Let’s recall that Yaakov suffered 22 years not knowing if Yoisef was alive or dead. Upon hearing the news that Yoisef was indeed alive, and a big wig over in Egypt, wouldn’t it have made sense for Yaakov to skedaddle over to see him? And isn’t that very specifically what Yoisef instructed the brothers to tell their father? And didn’t Paroy repeat these instructions? Why detour to Be’er Sheva. Was our zeyda Yaakov obstinate? Let’s find out.


Say the medroshim (collectively, a number of them) azoy: Yaakov had at least two, maybe more, good reasons for making the stop over in Be’er Sheva. Ershtens: Yaakov recalled that his own father Yitzchok was over in Be’er Sheva when and where he was denied permission (by the RBSO) from leaving the holy land. Yaakov was efsher thinking that perhaps the RBSO might send him a similar message. In other words: Yaakov went to Be’er Sheva to meditate and wait for further instructions. And taka meditate he did, for in the very next posik and a few to follow, we learn that the RBSO appeared to Yaakov in a “maros halylo” (a night vision) which -for all intents and purposes- is analogous to a dream. And? The RBSO not just gave permission for the move, but Yaakov was also assured him that He, the RBSO,  would be with him. Said the RBSO: I will get you there safely and I will also make sure that you, Yaakov, leave there one day. Sadly, that guarantee did not include the word alive. Yaakov did eventually leave; alas, in a coffin. Yaakov, through all the trials and tribulations endured, was still a man of faith. He believed in the RBSO, his faith in Him unshaken by the facts on the ground during his lifetime. Let’s read the pisukim. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 46: 2-4), azoy:


2.And G-d said to Israel in visions of the night, and He said, “Yaakov, Yaakov!” And he said, “Here I am.” בוַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֤ים | לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֙ל בְּמַרְאֹ֣ת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹ֣ב | יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי:
3. And He said, “I am G-d, the G-d of your father. Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. גוַיֹּ֕אמֶר אָֽנֹכִ֥י הָאֵ֖ל אֱלֹהֵ֣י אָבִ֑יךָ אַל־תִּירָא֙ מֵֽרְדָ֣ה מִצְרַ֔יְמָה כִּֽי־לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל אֲשִֽׂימְךָ֥ שָֽׁם:
4. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up, and Yoisef will place his hand on your eyes. דאָֽנֹכִ֗י אֵרֵ֤ד עִמְּךָ֙ מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וְאָֽנֹכִ֖י אַֽעַלְךָ֣ גַם־עָלֹ֑ה וְיוֹסֵ֕ף יָשִׁ֥ית יָד֖וֹ עַל־עֵינֶֽיךָ:


Ober listen to this amazing medrish which tells us why -in its opinion- Yaakov headed over to Be’er Sheva instead of an immediate trip to Egypt to see his long lost son Yoisef. Says the Medrish Rabbah azoy: Yaakov made his way over to Be’er Sheva to cut down trees. Trees? Was Yaakov a lumberjack? Why would Yaakov detour over to Be’er Sheva on his way to Egypt just to cut down a few trees and then schlep them along to Mitzrayim (which he did)? Was he going to sell them to the Mitzrim for their holiday? Nu, let’s find out.


Says the medrish (Medrish Rabbah Bereishis 46:1), azoy: Rav Nachman said: Yaakov went to Be’er Sheva to cut down cedar trees that his grandfather Avrohom had planted in Be’er Sheva. What is going on here? Was Avrohom an arborist? The medrish explains azoy: Yaakov -using his gift of ruach hakoidesh (divine inspiration), foresaw that one day in the future – efsher 200 years later- the Yiddin would -on their way to the Promised Land- be sojourning in the midbar (desert), and would -after sinning with the eygel (golden calf), be instructed to build a Mishkan (Tabernacle). In order to secure its walls and other planks, the structure would require a “briach hatichoin (center beam). In fact, when the RBSO gave the Yiddin instructions -in great detail- on how to build the Mishkan, they were told to use cedar wood as the middle support. Says the heylige Toirah (Shemois 26:28), azoy:


28. And the middle bar in the midst of the planks shall [extend and] penetrate from one end to the other end.   כחוְהַבְּרִ֥יחַ הַתִּיכֹ֖ן בְּת֣וֹךְ הַקְּרָשִׁ֑ים מַבְרִ֕חַ מִן־הַקָּצֶ֖ה אֶל־הַקָּצֶֽה:

Ober, where were they going to secure cedar wood in the Midbar? They weren’t! Ober, our zeyda Yaakov had the foresight to travel to Be’er Sheva and cut down cedar trees, the very ones planted by his zeyda Avrohom, which he schlepped all the way to Mitzrayim. The Yiddin somehow preserved, or replanted then, and also had the foresight to schlep such wood along with them when they left Mitzrayim. Accordingly, they had it at the ready when told to build the Mishkan. Mamish gishmak. Avada if you want proof of this, you should watch the movie The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Hesston, Yul Brenner and a few other notables. Look closely at the scene where the Yiddin cross the Yam Suf (Reed Sea), and you’ll notice that a few are schlepping long planks. What were they schlepping?  Cedar wood trees! Avada the movie’s director read the heylige Toirah and recalled that Yaakov made his way to Be’er Sheva where he cut down cedar trees to be used 200 years later. Is that gishmak or what?

Nu, in case you forgot and zicher you did, about the construction of the Mishkan, we are just nine weeks away from Parshas Teruma wherein the heylige Toirah (Shemois 26:15-25) will give us very specific details on the lengths of each wall and how the walls were held together through a series of planks. Those planks were held together by a series of acacia-wood bars. Additionally there was a middle bar – the briach hatichoin- which ran through the interior of the planks. And all this wood raboyseyee, was planted by our Zeyda Avrohom, cut down by our Zeyda Yaakov who transported the trees over to Mitzrayim, where they were eventually carried out of Mitzrayim by the Yiddin on their way to the Promised Land. Instead, due to a series of calamites which included the building of the eygel (golden calf), the Yiddin, as part of their atonement for errant behavior, were instructed to build a traveling Mishkan using this wood.


Does everyone agree that this wood originated from trees Yaakov cut while he detoured to Be’er Sheva? Of course not! Says the medrish further azoy: Reb Levi said that Yaakov collected the wood for the center beams over in Migdal Tzaba’aya. He did? And just where is this Migdal?  Seemingly, it’s near Tiverya (Tiberias). Ober how does that square up with what Rav Nachman told us just a few paragraphs above that Yaakov, while detouring in Be’er Sheva, cut down these trees. Did Avrohom plant other trees and did Yaakov cut those instead?


Shoin and not to worry. Both medroshim could be emes and aren’t they always? Don’t answer that!  Says the Yefeh Toar: Reb Levi is not disputing the fact that Yaakov cut trees down over in Be’er Sheva and that such trees wound up being used as the center beam in the Mishkan. But? What Reb Levi is suggesting is that Yaakov also cut down trees in Migdal Tzaba’aya and those trees too made their way over to Egypt and from there to the midbar. And the wood from those trees was also used in the Tabernacle which avada needed other planks to hold it together. Gishmak. Seemingly, it’s good to have wood wherever one travels, if you chap.

The bottom line: Yaakov’s commitment to the building of the mishkan more than 200 years later was so strong, he was willing to overcome his strong desire -built up over 22 years- to see his own son. And that raboyseyee is why he is Yaakov Ovenu and you’re not! Fartig!


Another view: two years ago, the Oisvorfer received a set of Oznayim LaTorah from his friends Gail and Elliot Ostro. There R’ Zalman Sorotzkin offers his own unique pshat on why Yaakov made his way over to  Be’er Sheva to cut down cedar trees which he schlepped with him to Mitzrayim in order to ensure that they would be available to be used for the briach hitichon (the middle support bar). Said he azoy: By the time Yaakov left K’nan on his way to be reunited with Yoisef, he already chapped the entire picture of what went down between Yoisef and his brothers. The entire conspiracy now lay bare. He now chapped all the cat and mouse Yoisef played with his brothers. He knew of the dissention. It was only natural for Yoisef to be pissed off and mad as hell. And he also knew that the purpose of the Mishkan was to unify the people of Israel following their sin with the eygel. The Mishkan was meant to unify the people and for the RBSO’s essence to rest there. He chapped that the middle bar was the key to holding all the planks and the walls together. It was the center beam. This unity was meant to symbolize the unity that would one day join all his children. Shoin: a father can only wish for all his kids to get along.

A gittin Shabbis!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv


Yitz Grossman



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