Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann
Many Routes, One Destination
"And [Yosef] sent off his brothers, and they went, and he said to
them, 'Do not become agitated on the way.'" (45:24) Why was Yosef
concerned that they may become agitated on the way? Simply, it
appears that Yosef feared that having just revealed himself, the matter
of his sale into slavery must certainly be on the brothers' minds, and
perhaps the brothers would quarrel with one another over who was
responsible for his sale.
Rashi, however, quotes a Midrashic explanation: Yosef told them,
"Do not become engrossed in halachic discussion, so that the trip
should not become a source of agitation for you." What was it that
caused Yosef to worry at this juncture that his brothers may become
so involved in a halachic discussion as to affect their very safety
during the journey? And if such a problem was to be expected, why
didn't Yaakov warn them about this when they left Eretz Canaan to
journey to Egypt?
Yalkut Yehuda explains that Yosef, by instructing them to move to
Mitzrayim, had presented them with a complicated halachic dilemma.
Under normal circumstances it is forbidden for one who lives in Eretz
Yisrael to leave. However, the Gemara (Bava Basra 91a) says that
when there is a shortage of food, and produce is only available
elsewhere, one may leave. Now, one could reason that this only
applies if one has no means of arranging for provisions to be
delivered to Eretz Yisrael. Here, however, Yaakov's family could have
made arrangements to obtain provisions from Yosef. On the other
hand, it is possible that they are only required to remain if food is
obtainable within Eretz Yisrael, but if produce is only available from
abroad, they are permitted to leave. This was the sort of halachic
discussion which could have caused intense argument and agitation
among the brothers. Thus, he cautioned them, "Do not become
agitated on the way!"
Rav Yechezkel of Kuzmir zt"l used to explain Yosef's warning
homiletically. There is a saying that when three Jew's have a
discussion, there will be four opinions. Even among the Orthodox and
Chareidi populous of our nation, the number of different sects is
astonishing. We have Chassidish; Litvish/Yeshivish; Mizrachi; Yekish;
Sefardi; Centrist; Modern Orthodox; and so on and so forth. Within
each of these major groupings, there are tens and in some cases
hundreds of sub-groups. Each of these groups and sub-groups
adheres to and promotes its own tenets and principles.
There is nothing wrong with this. There are many ways to serve
Hashem, and what "does the trick" for one Jew might not feel right
to someone else. What often happens, however, is that to some
extent each person begins to feel that their way is "the right way".
This is where the "divisions" become divisive. Hostilities arise between
different groups and sub-groups, each side claiming that their way is
clearly the truthful one. And when arguments are based on
"truthfulness," hostilities can become particularly bitter.
If only people would remember the words of Chazal, our Sages
(Berachos 58a), "Just as their appearances differ, so do their attitudes
differ." We don't get upset with others just because they don't look
A tzaddik was once asked, "There are so many different opinions -
Which is the correct way to serve Hashem?" He answered, "If a
doctor were to prescribe the same medicine for each of his patients,
no matter what their ailment, what kind of doctor would he be? Each
patient requires his own care and his own medicine. So too, each
Jew requires his own dose of spiritual medicine!"
Two Jews were once arguing about the best route to get to a certain
destination. "My way is the best," insisted the one. "No, my way is
certainly the best," claimed the other. Along came a mutual friend.
"Listen," he said to the two of them, "you arrived safely, right? And
you also arrived safely. You're happy with your way, and you're happy
with your way. So what are you arguing about?!"
This concept, says R' Yechezkel, can be alluded to in Yosef's warning.
"Don't become agitated on the way!" You have your own way; that's
fine. But don't become agitated when others don't see things the
same way you do. Each person and each group is entitled to forge
its own way in serving Hashem, providing it falls within the Torah
This is also alluded to, says the Rizhener Rebbe zt"l, in the beginning
of this week's sidrah (44:18), "And let not your anger flare up at your
servant." Don't allow your anger to flare up over your service of
Hashem, just because others don't see things the same way you do.
We have to be tolerant, accepting, and even encouraging of all Torah
factions. Each group reveals new paths upon which some Jews will
"find their way" to serve Hashem.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Project Genesis, Inc.