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Truth or Consequences – Drasha Vayigash

Thank you to community member Milton Simon for editing these Shabbos speeches given at the Pacific Jewish Center from my notes into these essays.

Today we are going to talk about truth. We will also discuss the opposite of truth. What is the opposite of truth? Something is true when it is in accordance with the facts and reality. The opposite of truth is when something is not in accordance with the facts and reality. Let us keep these definitions in mind as we progress.

As we jump back into the Parsha story we head to end of the Parsha. We have just experienced the most dramatic and moving section of all of Torah and perhaps in all of history. Yosef has revealed himself to his brothers. Yosef forgives his brothers. Yosef tells his brothers it was all part of a master plan and it is water under the bridge. The brothers are then invited to join Yosef and his family in Egypt to avoid the famine (and bring the fulfillment of the prophecy that the Jewish people would be slaves in Egypt.)

We can imagine the good spirits the brothers were in as they returned to their father in Israel. When they left him last they were on the verge of tragedy. One brother was in jail, the entire family was threatened and all this was aside from the gnawing guilt the brothers most certainly felt every day of their lives, imagining their lying to their father caused him massive suffering. They saw their father wither away and lose his spark due to their actions and lies. Now the brothers have their chance at redemption. They see that it was all part of a plan! They are forgiven! Yosef wants them to move to Egypt! We can only imagine their elation as they journeyed back to Yaakov their father.

The psukim tell us what happened when the brothers reached Yaakov. This should be another climactic scene. If we could imagine a movie about when the brothers tell Yaakov the news, the music would swell while the camera goes in real close to capture Yaakov’s unbridled joy. As Yaakov would hear the news the room would brighten, years of sadness would melt off Yaakov’s face as he would stand up from his seat and the scene would slowly fade to black. Well let’s see how it really happened. In fact, Yaakov didn’t believe them!!

What? Yaakov did not believe his sons. Did he think they playing a practical joke on him? Couldn’t he see their genuine joy? How are we to understand this?

Let us continue in the Chumash. Amazingly we see that eventually Yaakov believed that Yosef was alive. What convinced him? How did the truth become evident?

R’ Schwab mentions the saying in Avos of R’ Shimon. “The punishment of the liar is that even when he tells the truth no one listens to him” and we see from the brothers of Yosef that when they lied to their father by telling him that Yosef was dead they were not believed when they tried to tell their father that Yosef was alive.

At this point the Shevatim understood that by covering their misdeeds they would NEVER succeed, even with the truth. Therefore they realized their only option is to now tell Yaakov the entire story. They decided to tell their father all about their jealousy and plots to kill Yosef. The eventual sale of Yosef was discussed and they asked for forgiveness from Yaakov. That is what is meant by they told Yaakov ALL about Yosef – es Kol divrei Yosef. The full truth was finally revealed. At that point Yaakov was able to believe his sons and see the truth.

The truth is not only that the words are true. Truth is consistent with all the facts and reality. Truth does not exist in a vacuum – it is part of a greater whole. It must fit in with the song of the universe and be in perfect harmony with all the other parts. Yaakov was on too great a spiritual level to be a piece of the truth. He needed all of it to complete the circle of truth of reality.

The Talmud teaches us that Emes – truth stand on its own. And sheker – the opposite of truth always falls. We can visualize this by looking at the letters that form the word Emes and the letters that form the word Sheker. Emes is Aleph, Mem, Taf. These are the first, last and middle letters of the Aleph Beis. Truth is from start to finish with a solid middle. This is consistent with what we are saying that truth is part of a greater whole of reality and not independent. Perhaps even more interesting is the formation of each letter. The Aleph has two legs to stand on, the mem has a base on its bottom and the taf has a base as well as two legs. If we would stand these letters up they would not fall. Let’s look at Sheker. Shin, kuf and reish. Those letters all have but one leg and when stood up will topple. Further these letters are “out of alphabetical order” and are all right next to each other in the aleph beis. This indicates that sheker can work for a time because it is kept close and private but once the sheker gets out it cannot stand on its own.

Our Torah world is predicated on Emes. The Torah is emes and stands on its own. We don’t need to make excuses for Torah and it stands the test of time.

The lesson of Yaakov in this week’s parsha is that sheker is hard to undo – we can’t just press control z and magically the sheker disappears. Sheker can stand for a little while but eventually it gets toppled. This is why we need to be so careful to always begin with the absolute emes. It can be very difficult to undo sheker as we saw with Yaakov.

What was are witnessing in the world right now as Israel rains attacks upon its enemies is frightening. When the world is so immersed in sheker the truth is very hard to find. But the truth stands on its own and will eventually be seen. We need to do our part as advocates for Israel and prevent lies from spreading. I say this not because I am concerned with international opinion and political clout – rather I say this because when Jews look bad it reflects upon GD and it is very important to me to help prevent further Chillul Hashem. We can do our part as advocates for Israel.

But why are these lies so easy to spread? Shouldn’t the truth be obvious?

The last point I want to make is that while we do 100% back our brothers and sisters in Israel we also recognize there is a flaw in their reality. The official line of the Government of Israel is not that Hashem put the land of Israel in our hands, they say WE DID IT OURSELVES. Is it any wonder the world disbelieves our stories about the war, or anything? The world KNOWS the truth, and disbelieves us when we hold sheker. Amazing!

Is our leadership in the land of Israel taking all of reality into the equation? Do they recognize the role that GD plays in their lives? So long as they do not have the complete truth, with all its realities and all its beauty – the world will not see that the truth is with us. As we saw with Yaakov – only the whole truth is recognized as the truth. The only time a truth is recognizable to all and stands on it own is when the truth is consistent and the truth is in sync with the realities of the universe. When the truth is part of the harmony of the world then everyone will see it. When our leadership in the land of Israel embraces the spiritual component to the land of Israel the tremendous amount of Torah that spouts from the land of Israel, when the message of truth is consistent with all the facts and realities – that GD gave us this land – he should have a say as to how we use it, when that message is clear – the truth will be unequivocal and unchallenged.

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