The posuk in this week's parsha states: "And he
(Yaakov Ovinu) saw the chariots that Yosef sent to carry him,
and the spirit of their father Yaakov came alive."
(Bereishis 45:27) Rashi brings down from Chazal that
with the arrival of the wagons came the unspoken message that
Yosef still remembered the topic he had been learning with
his beloved father just before they were separated, which was
the topic of eglah arufoh. Understanding this message
is what caused Yaakov's spirit to be revived.
"How can agolos -- wagons -- refer to the topic of
eglah arufoh, when these words have two completely
different meanings and different punctuation?" ask the
Ba'alei Tosafos. The answer they give is a totally new
pshat, which is that these agolos referred to
the topic of agolos haMishkan -- the wagons which were
donated to the Mishkan by the Nesi'im.
According to Tosafos, this was the topic which Yaakov and
Yosef had last learned together.
We must understand: why did Yosef Hatzaddik choose to
transmit his underlying message specifically through this
topic of agolos haMishkan? He surely could have used
many different means, whether direct or indirect, to convey
that which he wished to his esteemed father. And why had
Yaakov chosen this particular topic to learn with his
favorite son so many years earlier?
Perhaps we can resolve these two questions by explaining
Tosafos' answer as follows: Upon looking at the topic of the
agolos haMishkan, we find the posuk (Bamidbor
7:3) saying the following: "And they (the Nesi'im)
brought their korbonos before Hashem: six covered
wagons -- sheish eglos tzov." Why should twelve
Nesi'im bring only six wagons? Wouldn't it have been
more appropriate that every Nosi donate one wagon? Yet
the posuk stresses that no, it was specifically
"agoloh al shnei haNesi'im" (Ibid.) -- one wagon for
every two Nesi'im.
Seforno there explains that each wagon was donated in
partnership in order to demonstrate the brotherhood between
them. As a result, they were worthy of Hashem's Shechina
resting upon them.
We can learn an amazing concept from the parsha of the
Nesi'im: Our holy Torah, in which brevity is of utmost
importance, lists the korbonos of the Nesi'im
twelve separate times, when each one's korbonos
and donations were exactly the same. A tremendous amount
of pesukim is used when spelling out the nedova
only once could have been enough. However, the Torah
repeats it again and again, in the name of each Nosi
separately, to relate that they all donated equally, no
one contributing more than his fellow Nosi.
The Chofetz Chaim brings down from Chazal that this was
actually the idea of Nesanel ben Tzu'ar, the Nosi of
shevet Yissochor. He suggested this, so that there
would be no jealousy among the Nesi'im. And the Torah,
in the same vein, lists the identical donations over and over
again, to teach us the importance of brotherhood and love
among fellow men.
With this demonstration of achdus, the Nesi'im
actually corrected the fault inherent in their initial
donation to the Mishkan. For when the Mishkan was
being built and the contributions of Klal Yisroel were
streaming in, the Nesi'im decided to wait and be the
last ones. Then, they would donate whatever was missing.
(Bamidbor Rabbah 12:19) However, in view of their very
high spiritual status, they were faulted for this, as it
demonstrated a minuscule amount of pride and rulership above
the general klal. They received their punishment when,
in the end, there was nothing remaining for them to bring.
We can apply this same concept to the topic of Yosef and his
brothers. They too, according to their lofty madreigah,
displayed a very fine-line hatred and harbored ill
feelings between each other. Perhaps for this reason, Yaakov
chose to learn the topic of agolos haMishkan with
Yosef. He wanted to teach his son how important the concept
of unity and brotherhood is. Its fundamental significance
warrants such a lengthy listing of all the Nesi'im's
Now, in parshas Vayigash, we read how, after twenty-
two painful years of separation, Yaakov is informed that the
son for whom he has been grieving for all that time is still
alive. Yet, the posuk does not immediately tell us
that Yaakov's spirit was revived. Why? Yaakov feared that
once the brothers would be reunited, the old sparks of envy
and hatred would surface again. Could this be cause for
Yet once he saw the wagons -- the agolos -- that Yosef
sent, Yaakov understood the deeper message: Yosef had indeed
remembered the lesson of the agolos haMishkan, and had
no intention of causing conflagration of any sort. On the
contrary, Yosef's desire was to endeavor to cause the spirit
of unity to rest between the brothers, in any and all manner
possible. Only after Yaakov realized this, does the posuk
state that his spirit was revived.
Perhaps one can suggest another reason why Yosef particularly
sent wagons to his father.
The Medrash (Bamidbor Rabbah 12:19) teaches us that
when the Mishkan was completed, the Nesi'im
said, "Nothing is missing; what remains for us to
donate?" Whereupon Nesanel ben Tzu'ar answered them, "Do you
think the Mishkan which you have built will fly in the
air (as it travels)? Donate wagons in which the Mishkan
can be transported!" Thereupon, the posuk states,
"And the Nesi'im offered" (Bamidbor 7:2).
With this contribution, they now demonstrated their regret
for their previous lack of initiative. Yet, how did this
contribution of the wagons truly rectify their not having
previously come forth?
Also, the Medrash states that because Nesanel ben
Tzu'ar suggested the idea of donating wagons, the Torah
considers it as if he brought his korbon first and
gives him special mention. Yet, what is so tremendous about
this idea of agolos?
Perhaps Nesanel ben Tzu'ar wished to set forth a concept of
leadership in Klal Yisroel. The Nesi'im must
realize that they themselves are actually the wagons which
carry the Jewish People. They shoulder the responsibility of
the klal, as we see in the gemora: "Am I giving
you leadership? I am enslaving you!" The Nesi'im
should perceive themselves as the slaves of Klal
Yisroel, who utilize all their faculties to benefit their
people. They are not merely leaders who crave honor and
glory, awaiting the show of kovod the people will
Thus, with their donation of agolos, the Nesi'im
truly rectified their previous mistake of lording over
Klal Yisroel. From now on, they wished to be the
agolos of Klal Yisroel -- they would carry the
people, instead of waiting for the people to carry them. The
Shem Mishmuel adds that the Nesi'im are called by this
very name, because they are nosei -- they carry -- the
burden of the people.
This very same concept can be applied to our inyan of
Yosef Hatzaddik. Years before, when Yosef told his brothers
of his dreams, they had accosted him, "Do you think you will
rule over us?" (Bereishis 37:8) And now, those dreams
had finally been fulfilled, and Yosef actually was the ruler.
There was true reason to fear that now, more than ever
before, he would govern the brothers.
Yet, in truth, there was nothing to worry about. With the
message of the agolos, Yosef was stating clearly, "I
still remember the parsha of the Nesi'im's
wagons. I have no intention of lording over my brothers. On
the contrary, I honestly see myself in the position of being
the agoloh -- the wagon -- that will carry the family.
I will sustain them during the famine, and carry the burden
of their support upon my shoulders."
We can thus understand why Yaakov's spirit was revived after
he understood Yosef's messages. Yosef was harboring no hatred
and had no intention of displaying his proud position. He was
there to assist Yaakov and the Shevotim in every way
possible. He recognized the opportunities which his powerful
position availed him, and would take advantage to benefit his
brothers. This is what made Yaakov's spirit come alive.
The above article appeared in the Elul, 5739 edition of
the bi-annually published Kol Hatorah journal. It has
been adapted and translated with permission.