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Through the Eyes of a Woman
A Chassidic Perspective on Living Torah

Vayigash: Don't Just Sit There. Do Something!

by Nechoma Greisman, Edited by Rabbi Moshe Miller

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  Chanukah: Light, not MightThe Tenth of Teves: Bearing Up, and Giving Birth  

I would like to repeat a vort from Shabbos. I see there are a lot of newcomers and they don't know what I mean. When I say "a vort from Shabbos," I mean a synopsis of teaching from the farbrengen concerning the weekly Torah reading -- in this case, Parshas Vayigash -- at which the Rebbe spoke this past Shabbos in 770. One of the tenets of Chabad Chassidus is that a person must live with the parshah of the week. That means not just read it, but actually go through his week getting guidance and inspiration from the parshah. The Rebbe always imparts a teaching from the parshah that is relevant to each and every one of us.

So what is the teaching derived from the first word of the parshah -- "Vayigash?" The translation of the word is "approach." Yehudah approached Yosef. Not only is this the first word of the parshah -- it is also the name of the parshah, which makes it even more significant. In Torah, and in Chassidus particularly, names are significant. Now the name of every parshah is not necessarily the first word of every parshah, as you will see if you go through their names.

The Rebbe explains that the word Vayigash, relates to the period that we are living in now. Right before the coming of Mashiach, one's main avodah (divinely-appointed task) is to serve HaShem with pure faith rather than intellect. (However, as regards our behavior between man and man, you definitely have to use your seichel.)

As we've mentioned numerous times, those of us who are fortunate enough to hear what the Rebbe says, know where to put our energy. The Torah is so vast, that you cannot do anything totally and exclusively. Nor can you do 613 things at once. So where should I put my emphasis, you may ask? The Rebbe says that in the last generation before Mashiach the emphasis is on ahavas Yisrael, on loving your fellow Jew, on simply overcoming the differences and the barriers between people and looking away from their faults and foibles and just loving one another. In misnagdish circles or in mussar circles you will find a great emphasis on shemiras halashon, on guarding your tongue, with symposiums and seminars, lectures and luncheons. And the truth is, this is only the other side of the same coin.

Every coin has two sides. One side is the aspect of "doing good." The other is the aspect of "refraining from evil." Ahavas Yisrael is "doing good," emphasizing the positive. Shemiras halashon is "refraining from evil." But, by emphasizing ahavas Yisrael, the result will be shemiras halashon.

The Rebbe says ahavas Yisrael is where we should be putting our emphasis in our generation. The Rebbe explains that matters have to come down to action. "The deed is the main thing." It's not enough to feel it in your heart. You've probably heard jokes about Jews who are not yet fully observant. A "cardiac Jew" is someone who is Jewish in his heart: he feels Jewish, and loves Yiddishkeit, and it's all there in the heart. But not in his actions. And there's the gastronomical Jew. Kreplach, gefilte fish, cholent. He feels so Jewish -- in his stomach. But what about his actions? Did he share his kreplach and cholent with another Jew? There are all types of Jews, and their Judaism is expressed in many different ways. But it is not enough to feel love. You have to do something about this love.

And that is what the word Vayigash means. It means making the effort to approach another Jew, and not just sit home and learn about ahavas Yisrael. Why don't you go visit another Jew? A fellow Jew might appreciate a kind word. Another might need a ride. Maybe a third one just needs some friendship, a fourth needs some tzedakah. The only ahavas Yisrael that is meaningful is that which descends from the realm of thought into the realm of action. It must be in deed -- actually doing something. This is the teaching gleaned from the word Vayigash.

Being a Jew is not just a privilege. It is also a responsibility. We all know that in secular modern American society the main aim is to succeed. It doesn't matter how many people fall by the wayside, as long as I get to the top of the ladder, and I get the job and I get a promotion and raise. And I, I, I, I. But that's not the Jewish way. The Jewish way is that there has to be interaction. And if there isn't any you should seek it. Don't wait until somebody knocks on your door and asks for your help. You have to go out of your way to look around you and seek out people in need. You have a mission to help those people whose paths you cross.

There is a story about the Shpoler Zeide, who became one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. When he was a newborn baby, on the day of his bris milah the Baal Shem Tov came to the ceremony disguised as a simple farmer. He placed his holy hand on the baby's heart and blessed him that he should always be "a varemer-Yid" -- a warmhearted Jew. That blessing permeated his being for his entire life, and he was indeed a varemer-Yid, who cared deeply for other Yidden. Let's all be warmhearted Yidden.


  Chanukah: Light, not MightThe Tenth of Teves: Bearing Up, and Giving Birth  
     Sichos In English -> Books -> Women -> Through the Eyes of a Woman

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