The Message of the Agalot by Ari Michael


In Perek 45, Pesukim 26 and 27, the Torah describes the way that the brothers convinced Yaakov that Yosef was still alive.  “And they told him that Yosef was alive and is the ruler of all of Egypt and Yaakov’s heart was faint and he refused to believe them.  And they told him everything Yosef had told them and they saw the wagons Yosef had sent and the Ruach Hakodesh rested upon Yaakov, their father.”

The simple interpretation of these Pesukim would indicate that Yaakov could not accept that Yosef was alive after living so long without him.  Apparently, Egyptian chariots were well known and of superior quality, as we see in Beshalach, where it says “Kol Rechev Paroh,” which were clearly known to be of better quality.  Therefore, when Yaakov saw the wagons Yosef sent to him, he recognized their quality as Egyptian and knew that everything his sons had told him was true.

However, the message of the Agalot is not as clear as it would seem.  There is a dual message being sent by these wagons.  Yosef is giving his father a message, a message of hope for their seeing one another once again.  However, Paroh is sending a different message.  He is expressing his respect and honor of Yaakov by sending his most prized possessions to facilitate this move.

Rashi explained the significance behind Yosef’s sending of the Agalot.  He says that they were meant to remind Yaakov of the last thing they learned together, which was Egla Arufa.  Rashi derived this from the fact that in the Pesukim leading up to Yosef’s sending of the chariots everything is done or suggested by Paroh.  However, it was Yosef who actually sent them, not Paroh.  This shows the dual ‘sending’ on the part of Yosef.  He was sending both the chariots with which Yaakov could be transported to Egypt and the spiritual chariots, or buoys, with his reminder that he remembered the last thing they learned together, the Egla Arufa.

Rav Soloveitchik, זצ"ל, had a unique interpretation of the actions of Paroh.  He said that the reason that Paroh showed such great respect for Yaakov and his family was because of his joy at discovering that Yosef was not merely a slave, but came from a family with a great heritage.  The reason for this joy emanated from his intrigue at the genius of Yosef, for he was able to accurately interpret the dreams as well as provide a solution for the problems they raised.  Yosef created an unprecedented food-rationing program, in which he set up functional collections and storage for the food, as well as an intricate method of distribution.  Paroh determined that if one brother was so smart, the others might be smart as well, and he was therefore very eager to bring them down to Egypt.

In addition, the Rav explained why Paroh had so much respect for Yaakov.  When the famine started, based on modern occurrence, the other advisers probably did not want to give food, a desperately needed resource, to other countries, but rather use it as leverage against them.  However, Paroh appreciated Yosef’s kindness and his strong qualities of יושר and חסד.  He realized that these qualities were due to his upbringing, and was very excited to meet the father, who had impressed the importance of these qualities so clearly to his son.

However, when Yaakov received the Agalot, it was unnecessary to say who sent them.  What they did manage to do was to inform Yaakov that Yosef was alive and that he remembered what they learned.  The Halacha of Egla Arufa is representative of a leader’s responsibility to his people.  Chazal’s description of Egla Arufa presents a pitiful picture.  A visitor arrived in town with nothing to eat and was turned away by everyone.  Therefore, he went wandering and while looking for food, dies.  At this point, Bait Din is required to proclaim that they had nothing to do with the death and bring a Korban.  However, the reason for the proclamation is very unclear.  Who would suspect Bait Din of having killed this person?  Rather, Bait Din is declaring that they did not see the plight of a person in need.

By sending the Agalot, Yosef was telling his father that he had learned the lesson of Egla Arufa and was a compassionate leader.  At this realization, Yaakov was overjoyed and enveloped by Ruach Hakodesh, “Vatechi Ruach Yaakov.”

Live Your Years by Yoni Shenkman

Yosef and his Brothers, Revealed by Eli Winkler