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Two Minutes of Torah: Vayigash - Tears of Joy

On more than one occasion I’ve been in trouble with my wife for asking her the question – why are you crying?  Most notably it happened just after proposing to her when she started to cry and I said to her “Why are you crying?” 

For me the association was always with tears at sad occasions, tears of sadness, of pain, of hurt.  But there’s also so clearly, and importantly, tears of joy.  The release we feel at weddings, at births, and at joyful occasions when we just can’t keep it in and tears come pouring out. 

In this week’s Torah portion we have, perhaps the most famous incident of crying in our Torah.  Joseph’s brothers are standing before him, still unaware that the man in Egypt is actually their brother Joseph. As they negotiate for Benjamin’s release, Joseph is finally impressed by Judah and his words of promise, offering to take Benjamin’s place. Joseph is overcome with emotions; he makes sure that everyone leaves the room and overwhelmed by the emotion, he reveals himself to his brothers and says, I am Joseph your brother and he cries.  And the cries are so loud that they were not just heard in his household, but they were heard in Pharaoh’s house. 

At this moment, Joseph’s tears of joy come not just from the reunion with his brothers and the news that his father is still alive; but they also come from the fact that his brothers have grown and are not the same men that he left all those years ago. He cannot control himself, and keep the emotions in check any longer, and so he cries. 

When we cry, we sometimes cry from pain and sadness, but we also cry from joy.  And in both cases it’s about the emotions that we feel being so overwhelming that there’s almost nothing that we can do except cry.  And, for us, as we read our Torah and as we read the story of Bereshit, of Genesis, and as we come toward the end of this book, it is such a powerful moment to hear about Joseph crying as he’s reunited, first with his brothers and then with his father. 

It is at this point that we are finally able and ready to end the stories of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs and move on to the stories of our people that we will begin in Exodus in a couple of weeks.

Joseph’s tears marked a turning point in our history, a reunion and a joyful moment as brothers are reunited in love.  

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