Here we are again, Parashas Vayigash… just a year ago this Shabbos my family celebrated my brother’s Bar Mitzvah! (We’re getting deeper into birthday season in my family!) I could lein for you the whole weekday Torah reading in tune, not just the beginning of the haftarah like I remember from my older brother’s Bar Mitzvah parashah!

Did you know that the Torah is read in shul every Monday and Thursday? They don’t read the whole parashah like we do on Shabbos, but they read a little portion, kind of a teaser for the longer Torah reading on Shabbos!

Parashas Vayigash

We left last week’s parashah with the brothers in the middle of an argument with Yosef HaTzaddik, the viceroy of Egypt, as to whether their brother Binyamin would stay as a slave to him or return free to his father’s home. We pick up this week with Yehuda stepping forward and taking responsibility, insisting that he will stay instead of Binyamin. Yosef cannot bear it anymore, sends his servants out, and reveals his identity to his brothers.

They are shell-shocked. Yosef assures them that he does not hold a grudge against them for their past actions. The news spreads from the meal where the brothers are eating to the palace; Paroh comes to welcome Yosef’s brothers.

Yosef gives out gifts and clothing, and sends his brothers back to their father to bring him down to Egypt. Yaakov Avinu takes the news (delivered to him by his granddaughter Serach) and prepares to travel to Egypt on the wagon Yosef sends for him. He makes the journey along with his entire household, a total of seventy people including Yosef’s family in Egypt!

The family of Bnei Yisrael (the children of Israel) arrives in Egypt; Yosef ensures that his family is settled comfortably in Goshen, away from the Egyptians. Yosef brings his father Yaakov Avinu to meet Paroh. As the famine increases, people come from around the world to buy food from Yosef; he makes Egypt a prosperous and successful country. The family of Yaakov Avinu settles down in Goshen, learning Torah and shepherding their sheep as is their usual profession.

I must admit that this is my favorite parashah in the Torah. The mere drama surrounding the words “Ani Yosef! Ha’od avi chai?” or “I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?” said to his brothers, can send chills down my back any day. What happens, though, when Yaakov Avinu is told that Yosef is in fact still alive?

You might not have known that it was placed in the hands of Serach, the daughter of Asher (one of the twelve tribes) to break the news to Yaakov Avinu that Yosef was still alive.

Serach played her harp and gently sang to her grandfather that Yosef was alive and well, ruling in Egypt. Yaakov Avinu gave her a tremendous blessing and she merited to live a very long life.

The power of music is something that (I know, I’m obsessed with!) can be underestimated.

Next time you’re walking around in the mall, take stock every few minutes and see how you feel in whatever store you’re in. Do you think that the music the store is playing lends the atmosphere to a certain feel?  Do you think they do it on purpose?

Some people don’t understand why there are those of us who only listen to Jewish music. Want to know why? I’ll tell you – why I do, anyway.

Music has this pull to the soul, especially the Jewish soul. Music and song have been a part of our tradition since the song of praise sang by the Jewish people after the splitting of the sea.

Song can affect us deeply, when we’re not even noticing it. Yaakov Avinu didn’t realize outright what Serach was telling him; it took a little while for the melody and words to wash over him before he gained back the clarity and sense of spiritual vision he had before. Music from a source not rooted in holiness can have the opposite kind of affect on the soul.

That’s a risk I’m not willing to take. So I stick to a limited amount of Jewish music.

What do you think? Have you ever felt music’s pull in one way or another?

Tell us about it below!

Speaking of music… I’m listening to Hesech Hada’as sung by Avrohom Fried, composed by Yossi Green, from his album The 8th Note.

Have a super Shabbos!