I’m Dying to See You

Parshas Vayigash

Question

Yaakov came down to Eygpt and met Yosef  after having been separated for twenty-two years. On seeing Yosef he proclaimed “Now that I have seen you, I can die”. Yaakov’s statement Now I can die” seems a very unusual salutation. This is hardly what one would expect to feel, think, and say on seeing a loved one after such a long time apart. Why was this his greeting?

Answer

The Talmud explains that there are periods when a couple may not be together. Too much familiarity is harmful for a marital relationship. The Torah proscribes them to separate for a while; this distance will reignite the excitement of bride and groom. Here we have the same two people, yet the spell of absence develops a renewed appreciation for each other. It is from the negative that the positive can best be observed.

Yaakov intended to show his great love for Yosef.  Being aware of the human weakness that people do not appreciate what they have until it is highlighted by its lack, Yaakov could not adequately convey his love to Yosef  by saying merely “I’m so glad to see you, now I feel alive.” Only the converse statement fully transmits Yaakov’s depth of feeling: Being separated from you was living a thousand deaths. Now that we have been reunited I feel the opposite.

Lesson

To appreciate your blessings, try and imagine what life would be like without them.

Story

The Rosh HaYeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha, Rabbi Shneur Kotler (1918-1982), lost his son Rabbi Meir to a prolonged illness.  Rabbi Meir left behind a young widow and child, and dashed hopes. It was well known that Rabbi Meir was a brilliant young man with a wonderful future. Rabbi Shneur was inconsolable.

The Bluzhover Rebbe (Rabbi Yisroel Spira, 1889-1989) visited determined to comfort the mourners. The Rebbe entered the room where  Reb Shneur was sitting shiva, and sat down before him. “Rosh Yeshiva,” he began deferentially, “I am jealous of you”. The crowd of visitors listened on, in shocked silence. Jealous of  a father who just lost his son?

Reb Shneur picked up his head in disbelief. The Rebbe could not be serious! It became obvious just how sincere Rabbi Spira was, as he continued. “I once had a beautiful daughter and a wonderful grand-daughter. Both were taken from me during the dark, difficult days of the Holocaust. Both of them were murdered, but I do not know where or when. I cannot observe yahrtzeit for my child, nor can i visit her grave. Further, I do not have any living memorial to her. You at least have that – a yahrtzeit, a gravesite to visit, and grandchildren of whom you can be proud. I have none of these.

Confronted with the greater losses of the Bluzhover Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur was comforted by the positive aspects of his own loss. When the shiva ended, Rabbi Shneur called the Bluzhover Rebbe: ” You gave me perspective to live with,” he said. “Thank you.”

Weekly Halacha

One may walk on snow or mud on Shabbos even if the soles of one’s shoes imprint words or pictures.

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