Pure Selflessness

After 22 painful years of separation, Yosef was reunited with his beloved brother Binyamin. After Yosef revealed his true identity, he fell upon Binyamin’s neck and wept, and Binyamin fell upon the neck of Yosef and wept as well.

Chazal (Megillah 16b) reveal to us that Yosef wept about the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash that would later be located in the portion of Shevet Binyamin, and Binyamin wept over the destruction of Mishkan Shiloh, which is in the portion of Eretz Yisrael belonging to Shevet Ephraim, the son of Yosef.

Why did these two lofty brothers choose precisely that moment to mourn the destruction of the Churban Batei Mikdash? This was a time of great joy and happiness. When two brothers who haven’t seen each other in a very long time are finally reunited, one would hardly expect them to use the very first minutes of their long-awaited reunion to recite Tikkun Chatzos. Furthermore, why did each brother see fit to weep over the destruction that would take place in the portion of the other brother? Third, if Mishkan Shiloh wouldn’t have been destroyed, the Beis Hamikdash wouldn’t have been built. So how did Binyamin weep over the churban of a Mishkan in the portion of Yosef, when this very destruction paved the way for a Beis Hamikdash in his own portion?

Harav Yechezkel, the Rebbe of Kuzmir, zy”a, explains that since the sin of mechiras Yosef came because of jealousy and sinas chinam, the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed for this reason as well. Therefore, when Yosef and Binyamin finally met — after being separated for so long because of sinas chinam — the first thing they sought to do was try to prevent the destruction of the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash. They sought to prevent this from occurring through weeping, and through rectifying sinas chinam via ahavas chinam. For the true ahavah towards another Yid is when one puts the pain of another before his own. Therefore, each brother wept not over the destruction of the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash that would be built in his own chelek, but rather in that of his brother. Furthermore, the ahavah that existed between these two brothers was so great that each of them was actually willing to forgo having a Mikdash in his own chelek, as long as the Mikdash of his brother would not be destroyed!

We cannot fathom the greatness of the Avos, and the entire matter of mechiras Yosef is beyond the scope of our understanding. What is clear to us, however, is that throughout the process of revealing himself to his brothers, Yosef Hatzaddik meant only their benefit. When he finally disclosed his true identity, he told them, “And now, be not distressed, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, for it was as a supporter of life that Hashem sent me ahead of you…”

Chazal (Nazir 23a) teach us, however, that if one intended to eat non-kosher meat, and ended up inadvertently eating a kosher piece of meat, he is still in need of a kapparah, for he intended to sin. Therefore, even if, as Yosef stated, their selling him down to Egypt proved to be a lifesaver for the family, this was hardly their original intention, and many generations later, the Asarah Harugei Malchus were killed because of the sin of mechiras Yosef.

So why did Yosef seek to absolve his brothers from any responsibility, something that presumably would discourage them from doing teshuvah?

One approach can be found in the words that Yosef used toward his brothers: “Be not distressed, do not reproach yourselves…” Later, he instructed them, “Do not become agitated on the way.”

We find the term “al te’atzvu — be not distressed” elsewhere in Tanach (Shmuel II:19:3) where it refers to an event that occurred in the past. “V’al yichar — do not reproach yourselves…” refers to the present, while “Do not become agitated on the way,” refers to the future.

The navi Yeshayah (14:3) says: “It shall be on the day that Hashem grants you relief from your distress, your agitation, and from the hard labor…” The Zohar Hakadosh teaches that this is referring to Shabbos Kodesh. “Your distress” refers to the past, “your agitation” refers to the future, and the “hard labor” refers to the present.

Shabbos is a day when we must put away all our concerns, all our worries. It is a time when we should focus solely on cleaving to Hashem in sublime joy. On Shabbos we should be above time, and not thinking of the past, future or even the present. Even worries about our spiritual failings should be avoided on Shabbos.

As long as he was able to, Yosef Hatzaddik delayed revealing himself to his brothers so that the sin that was committed could be rectified. When he felt he could no longer hold back, he was still determined to do all he could to avoid the Asarah Harugei Malchus being killed. He therefore suggested to his brothers a solution: The Midrash Tanchuma teaches that oneg Shabbos is the equivalent of a thousand fasts. Through putting away all worries of past, present, and future on Shabbos, one rises above the concept of time, and can merit reaching the level of complete teshuvah.

(Adapted from a teaching of the Shem MiShmuel.)