Vayigash

Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

(And He Came Near)
The story of Joseph and his brothers continues.

THE BLESSING

WHEN JOSEPH’S BROTHERS LEARN that he is still alive, they must go and tell their father, but they are afraid that he will die of shock upon learning the truth. They are afraid that this news will be too great a blessing, and that Jacob’s soul will fly out of him upon hearing it. They argue with each other about who will deliver the news.

There is a legend that recounts the solution to their problem. Jacob had a favorite grand-daughter, Serach, who was the daughter of his son Asher. Serach was a musician with a gentle voice and a powerful spirit. Her songs were a healing balm for Jacob during his dark nights of wrestling. Whenever he called for Serach, she sang for him and he was comforted.

It was agreed that only Serach would be able to reveal this great news, because when Jacob’s soul, overcome by blessing, flew out, Serach would be able to sing a song that would call his soul back to this world.

THE SONG THAT SERACH SANG to Jacob was the most beautiful melody she had ever sung. Everyone that heard it wept with joy because in it Joseph’s spirit was revealed. The melody carried Joseph’s beauty, pain, longing, love and devotion. Her words told the story of his journey and it was woven with his dreams. Serach’s song also told the truth about the whole family, a truth that would have been hard to hear if it were not delivered with such purity.

When Jacob heard Serach’s song, his soul indeed flew out and left this world… but it was called back by the beauty of her song. For this gift, Serach was rewarded with a very long life. It is said that she sang through 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

When the people were about to leave Egypt, they were at first held back by their promise to bring Joseph’s bones along with them. Fortunately, having lived long enough to both witness Joseph’s burial and be present at the time of the Exodus, Serach located exactly where Joseph was buried, and the liberation could begin.

THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE

WE, LIKE JACOB, WILL REMAIN ignorant of the greatest blessing — the miracle of life itself — unless we can receive that blessing in beauty. The truth of our lives will remain mute and invisible unless it becomes a song. The vast miracle of our existence would be overwhelming if received unadorned, and all at once. It would tear us open, and our souls, set free, would fly. Yet, artful glimpses of that same vast miracle gradually expand our capacity to know the truth. The spiritual challenge that we share with our father Jacob is to prepare ourselves to listen for the song of truth and blessing, and to let its beauty call us to deeper living.

We, like Serach, will be rewarded for our song. Our reward will be the ability to preserve the precious memory (of the etzem, which means “bones” or “essence”) that will eventually lead to freedom. And we are challenged to keep singing, to keep the memory and blessing alive in our song, even through the darkest days of slavery.

ALL THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE and blessings of Vayigash rest on a pivotal moment — the moment when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. He steps out from behind the mask of power, the mask of the false self, and weeps aloud. These are the tears of profound relief and of love unbound. This moment of expansion is the result of Joseph’s embrace of a paradox. Two seemingly contradictory truths live inside Joseph, and when he can hold them both, then the true self is set free from artifice.

LATER IN THE STORY Joseph describes this moment to his brothers. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) On some days we acknowledge the deep woundings that we have suffered; we mourn the loss of innocence; we confront the face of evil. And on some days we absolutely know that those very same wounds are the source of our compassion and power; we celebrate the essential rightness of the path of Life in all its turnings, understanding that what feels like evil is an aspect of the goading force that unfolds the soul to its true breadth.

And there comes a day when both these perspectives exist at once. On that day joy and anguish meet within us and the resulting alchemical reaction explodes the boundaries of the false self. On that day we are set free. This freedom allows us to come out of hiding, to finally tell the truth and reveal ourselves.

GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE

The Torah of Moses is there to point us to the Torah of our lives. Each of us is given an amazing story, set in a world of suffering and redemption, tragedy and miracle. The false self keeps itself in power through deceptively shoring up of one side of the paradox, favoring it over the other. Only when we can live within the seeming contradiction, expanding to embrace the paradox of our existence, can the true self be revealed.

PARADOX MEDITATION

USE A CONCENTRATION ON THE BREATH to center yourself in a meditative state.

WHEN YOU REACH A PLACE OF STEADINESS AND CALM, call up a scene in your life when you felt victimized. When you can really feel the feelings of that time, shrink the scene till it can fit into the palm of your left hand. Hold it and feel its weight and color and texture. This is the hand that knows “you meant evil against me.” In it you hold your anger, vengeance, indignation, grief.

SET THAT HAND ASIDE FOR A MOMENT and bring your attention to your right hand. This is the hand that knows that “God meant it for good.” This hand holds the wide perspective, the wisdom and the compassion that has come from your suffering, the opportunities for touching the deeper ground when the rug was pulled out from under you. Feel in this hand the joy, curiosity, strength and courage that have emerged from your particular life-dilemmas.

WIDEN YOUR FOCUS until you can feel both hands at once. Notice the difference in weight and feeling-tone.

SLOWLY BRING YOUR TWO HANDS TOWARD EACH OTHER. Notice whatever resistance is present and keep moving them towards each other. When your two hands touch, pay particular attention to whatever images or words arise and to the feelings in your body. (I’m always completely surprised by what emerges in this practice.)

SHARE what you have found with a trusted spirit-buddy. (See “Spirit Buddies: Theory & Practice” for how to use this aspect of practice.)


Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.