Wagon Worries by Gavriel Metzger


Once Yosef revealed to his brothers the fateful news that he was indeed their long lost brother, he sent wagons up to Eretz Canaan to bring his father to Mitzrayim.  The Midrash relates that Paroh originally sent wagons to Yaakov, but the Pasuk only mentions, “VaYar Et HaAgalot Asheir Shalach Yosef LaSeit Oto,”, “He recognized the wagons sent by Yosef to bring him” (Bereishit 45:27). Since the wagons commissioned by Paroh had idolatrous symbols etched into their sides, Yehuda burned them. However, as the episode unfolds, the Pesukim detail how Yaakov acquiesced to Yosef’s request to join him in Mitzrayim and traveled southward “BaAgalot Ashier Shalach Paroh,”, “In the wagons supplied by Paroh” (Bereishit 46:5), despite the fact that such wagons, because of the Avodah Zarah etched into them, were previously deemed unfit for use by a Jewish traveler, especially Yaakov Avinu. What caused the change of heart?

In truth, Avodah Zarah was not embedded within the wooden frames of the wagons, but rather the wagons represented something else entirely, something which did not draw the respect of Yaakov and his family. The Zeir Zahav elucidates that, initially, Yaakov felt that this trip to Mitzrayim would be a vacation of sorts, a trip made to reunite with Yosef and celebrate with him, but with the plan in mind to return to Eretz Canaan after the festivities. Once he saw that Paroh himself sent wagons, he realized that this preliminary plan would not likely come to fruition, as Yaakov and his family were expected to stay and reside there. Such an idea was inconceivable for them, as the Gemara in Ketubot (110a) notes that leaving Eretz Yisrael and living in Chutz LaAretz was considered tantamount to straying from Hashem’s ways by choosing a lifestyle centered on Avodah Zarah.

These qualms were set to rest as a result of Hashem’s appearing to Yaakov in Be’er Sheva, assuring him that “Anochi Eired Imecha Mitzraimah,” “I will descend with you to Mitzrayim” (Bereishit 46:4), and there was no issue with leaving Eretz Canaan. As soon as Yaakov understood that this journey to Mitzrayim would not be a trip but rather a more permanent move as per the order of the Ribono Shel Olam, he was willing to travel in Paroh’s wagons. Knowing full well that this move to Mitzrayim was part of the Jewish destiny and a step towards the fulfillment of the Brit Bein HaBetarim, Yaakov now viewed Paroh’s wagons as a facilitator of such an idea, and could travel in them in peace.

As a young child, one is told not to accept gifts from strangers, and people generally have reservations towards other people or objects that are not familiar to them. Certain things are completely taboo and shunned by society, but if one takes a step back and observes using a different viewpoint, sometimes provided by a third party, perhaps the previously eschewed idea will prove beneficial after all.  When we realize that everything is part of Hashem’s master plan, it becomes easier to be accepting of seemingly adverse events. 

Now I Know by Rabbi Joel Grossman

Diligence in Mitzvot by Avi Levinson