Nafsho Keshura B’nafsho

“And now, when I go to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, his soul is bound up in his soul. When he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die and your servants will have brought the hoary head of our father to the grave in sorrow.” (Bereishis 44:30-31 ) Thus Yehuda pleaded with the Egyptian viceroy that Yaakov and Binyomin were so emotionally connected that Yaakov would not physically survive losing Binyamin. His death or disappearance, following the death of Rachel and disappearance of Yosef, would be a fatal blow to Yaakov.

Yehuda was appealing to any modicum of human feelings the Egyptian viceroy might have had. However, because the Torah only contains words of eternal value, there were no doubt deeper layers of meaning in his words. To what else might Yehuda have been alluding?

When Hashem first spoke to Moshe Rabeinu at the burning bush, he told him, “So shall you say to Pharaoh. This is what Hashem said, My son, My firstborn son Israel.” What did Hashem mean that Israel is Hashem’s son? If He meant that He physically created us, He created every person and indeed every animal, every plant and the whole of creation. In this sense we are all the children of Hashem. Why should just the Jews be called Hashem’s children?

Melachim II 2:11 tells us, “As Eliyahu and Elisha were walking and conversing, behold – a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated between the two of them and Eliyahu ascended to Heaven in a the whirlwind. Elisha was watching and shouting, “My father, my father, Israel’s chariot and horseman.” Why did Elisha call Eliyahu, his father? Elisha’s father was Shafat! (ibid 19:19)

Bamidbar 3:1 says, “These are the generations of Aharon and Moshe…the firstborn Nadav, Avihu, Elazar and Isamar.” The Ramban comments that the pasuk says the generations of Moshe, but only Aharon’s children are mentioned. We learn from this that if a person teaches another person Torah it is as if he gave birth to him.

We see already that the Torah concept of being a father or son is not merely in the physical sense. The word for son in loshon hakodesh is ben which is derived from boneh — to build. A father and son or rebbe and talmid are building something together. Elisha was continuing to build what Eliyahu had begun, as were Aharon’s children building on what Moshe Rabbeinu had taught them.

Shabbos (119b) says that someone who says Vayachulu on Friday night becomes a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world. Shabbos (89a) says that when Moshe Rabeinu arrived in Shomayim to receive the Torah, Hashem said to him, “Don’t they say ‘Sholom’ where you come from?” Moshe replied, “Does a servant say Sholom to his master?” Hashem said, “You should have helped Me.” Moshe Rabeinu said to Hashem, “May the strength of Hashem be increased, as You have said.” What does this mean? We can be partners with the Creator? He needs our help?

Pirkei Avos (6:11) says that Hashem created the world and everything in it, in His honour. Of course we will be the beneficiaries if we use the world to honour Hashem. The sefer Derech Hashem tells us that after the aveira of Odom Horishon and his subsequent teshuva, Hashem hoped that mankind as a whole would honour Hashem in their actions and through this, Hashem’s purpose in creating the world would be fulfilled. There was no plan to have a “Chosen People,” as later materialized. He waited ten generations but the people were wicked. He brought the flood but it did not help and the next ten generations were equally wicked, except this time there was one notable exception — Avrohom the son of Terach. He was not only righteous in himself but he had the ability to influence his descendants. Now Hashem decided that a new stage in world history should begin. Avrohom’s family and descendants would now be the “Chosen People”, Hashem’s flagbearers in the world. Their mission was to influence the rest of humanity. (Ramban in Devarim 32:26 and Seforno in Shemos 19:6) From their devotion to Hashem, their publicising His miracles, and their example in leading lives of moral rectitude, the nations of the world would also learn to believe in Hashem, even if they only accepted seven basic mitzvos. In a sense this was Hashem’s back-up plan to bring the world to its fulfilment.

Therefore if we proclaim our belief that Hashem created the world by saying Vayachulu, we become partners with Hashem in bringing the world to its fulfilment. He asks us to help Him, not because He needs us at all, but since He decided, in His kindness, to create a world for people to honour Him, through which they would receive great rewards, if we live a life of devotion to Hashem, sanctifying His Name, we are in a sense, helping Hashem to bring the world to its fulfilment.

Being a partner with Hashem is an awesome responsibility but it is also something which brings us tremendous blessings. Firstly, because of the vital role we play in bringing the world to its fulfilment, we will receive a huge reward in the world to come. Secondly, Hashem takes special care of us in this world. We are His partners and partners do everything to help each other. Even if we sometimes slip, according to the Ramban, (ibid), He shows us great patience and mercy. He “has to.” We are already in plan B. There is no plan C; only a return to nothingness. We learn in Kiddushin (36a) that however much we fall from the required standards, we are still referred to as Hashem’s children. Not in the physical sense, as we explained earlier, but because we are building a world of honor for Hashem. We have a joint mission. Our souls are intertwined. “Nafsho keshura benafsho.”

When Yehuda said “Nafsho keshura benafsho,” he wasn’t just referring to how broken hearted Yaakov would be were he not to see Benyamin. On a deeper level he was also expressing the spiritual connection between Yaakov and the only remaining son of Rochel. If Binyamin didn’t return, Rochel’s vital contribution to the future of Klal Yisroel would be lost. And on an even deeper level he was hinting at the intertwining of another Father and son, the Ribono Shel Olom and His beloved children, the Jewish people. We are Hashem’s chariot. We are Hashem’s flagbearers. Out of all the nations, we devote ourselves to increasing Hashem’s honor in the world. It is our responsibility and also our greatest blessing.

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