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Sabotaged Excuses

Parshat Vayigash

Dec 24, 2009

When Yosef finally reveals himself to his brothers he says “I am Yosef, Is my father still alive? But his brothers were unable to reply because they were left in shock before him”

The question is astounding! The entire time Yehuda has been pleading to allow Binyamin to return home to their father so that a tragedy doesn’t come about. The most recent information that they have is that Yaakov is well and expectantly awaiting their return. Why does Yosef ask if his father is still alive?

The Midrash comments regarding their inability to respond “Woe to us on the Day of Judgment! Woe to us on the Day of Rebuke! Yosef was of the younger tribes yet his brothers were shocked into silence in the face of his rebuke. How much more so will we have nothing to say when Hashem will rebuke each person according to who he is?

The Midrash seems a bit incomprehensible. While we know what the Day of Judgment is what is meant by the Day of Rebuke? Furthermore what rebuke did Yosef give his brothers? And finally what does the Midrash mean by “rebuke each person according to who he is”?

Imagine someone in your neighborhood was out of work and in bad shape (May Hashem protect all Yidden). A few people got together to raise funds to help. They approached you and asked for your help. You respond by explaining how your business is not what it once was and that your expenses have dramatically risen. While you would really like to do more you can only give $200.Your excuse is perfectly legitimate. You truly can do no more.

Two weeks later you decide to take your extended family to Acapulco for a well deserved winter vacation at a five figure price. You effectively destroyed your up to now legitimate excuse for not giving more Tzeddakah.

Or you have a hard time getting to minyan on time and consistently skip serious parts of Pesukei D’Zimra or Korbanos. The reality is that it is very difficult to get up on time. This difficulty might actually mitigate the severity of this serious lapse in your Avoda Sheb”lev.

However when you are up at 5:45 on Chol HaMoed in order to leave to the tiyul on time you ‘blow your excuse out of the water’.

Our inconsistencies destroy our legitimate alibis.

This was the rebuke Yosef had in mind when he asked if his father was still alive. “My brothers! You claim to be so concerned about how the loss of Binyamin will kill your/our father. Where was that concern when you sold me? I am Yosef; is father still alive?” The glaring contradiction was a ringing indictment which silenced them completely.

This is the Day of Rebuke when Hashem will rebuke each of us according to who we are and how we have lived. He will rebuke us for our deeds and lapses from our deeds and lapses. How speechless we will be when our own deeds sabotage our alibis and self-justification.

May Hashem give us the fortitude to live consistently so that we serve as real and not fraudulent role models for our children. May we not subject ourselves to the Divine scrutiny that will unmask the fake excuses for what they are.

May we all merit the courage and tenacity to be true to ourselves so that we see nachas from our near and dear and we provide Hashem with the nachas He so truly deserves.

This Dvar Torah is provided by

Kehillas Tal Shlomo
Ramat Beit Shemesh
Rav Moshe Mordechai Lieber

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