Torah Fax
Friday, December 29, 2006 - 8 Tevet, 5767

Torah Reading  Vayigash (Genesis 44:18 - 47:27)
Candle Lighting Time 4:18 PM
Shabbat ends 5:23 PM

Fast begins (12/31): 6:08 AM
Fast ends: 5:16 PM

Old In New
When Joseph sent his brothers to inform their father Jacob that he was still alive, the Torah in this week's parsha states that Joseph sent him: "ten male donkeys carrying Egypt's finest produce." The special produce, the Torah states, was in addition to a shipment of "grain, bread and delicacies."
What exactly does the Torah mean when it says that he sent him the finest of Egypt? It could not mean the finest grain or other staples of life because that is mentioned separately.
Rashi quotes the Talmudic interpretation that Joseph sent him "aged wine which is enjoyed by old people in particular."
The question has been raised: why would Joseph send his father aged wine? True, old people enjoy old wine as the Talmud states, but Jacob was certainly more excited about the fact that his beloved son was alive than sipping aged wine. If Joseph would have sent him nothing, Jacob would have been just as thrilled knowing that his beloved son was still alive and that he would soon be reunited with him.
One answer to this question sees the sending of aged wine as part of a coded message that Joseph sent his father. The wine was intended to allay the fear Jacob may have harbored that Joseph had forgotten his old father and his teachings. Otherwise, Jacob could reason, why would Joseph, the Viceroy of Egypt, have kept his whereabouts a secret from his father for all these years? It would have seemed obvious that Joseph wanted to put the past out of his life and start a new life-the life of an Egyptian ruler.
The fact that Joseph was now notifying his father of his existence, could have been misinterpreted by Jacob as a sign that Joseph felt secure in his new Egyptian identity and that he was not afraid to meet his old father. Or perhaps, Jacob might have thought, Joseph might have felt sorry for his aged father and his suffering and wanted to see him again out of a sense of sympathy - but not because he identified with him.
If either of these scenarios were true, Jacob would not have felt that good about seeing Joseph. Jacob was looking for his family to be whole again; he was not looking for pity or for the pleasure of having a son who enjoyed power. He wanted a family united in its purpose of carrying on the legacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not a family of aristocrats and viceroys.
To allay Jacob's potential fear, Joseph sent aged wine. Wine comes from the inside of the grape, its essence. The symbolism he conveyed with this gift was that Joseph's wine, i.e. his inner spirit and joy, was one that was aged. It was the same wine he had imbibed in his youth when he lived with and served his father Jacob.
Joseph might have looked like he was a member of the modern age, but he was truly a product and faithful follower of the old generation. This realization was sure to warm Jacob's heart because it would let him know that Joseph remained his loyal son.
To be sure, there was a major change that did take place. Joseph was not totally the same Joseph. However, the only change was the venue in which he was partaking of and serving the "old wine." Instead of teaching the age-old values of his father in a conducive atmosphere, to members of the earlier generation, Joseph was bringing the timeless message of Judaism to a modern, cutting edge generation. Joseph was thus true to his father Jacob and true to his name that means to increase. Joseph was the ultimate fusion of two worlds.
The lesson for our time is obvious. Being in exile means that we are forced to make some concessions to the place and time in which we live. We live in a modern age and we cannot escape that reality. But there are two approaches to living in exile and being "confined" to modernity. One approach separates us from our past and makes it impossible for us to be redeemed. The second approach synthesizes the "old wine" with new vessels. We utilize modern technology. We speak the same language as the people in whose country we sojourn. But, we do not alter our mindset. Our beliefs, practices of Mitzvot and values do not change. Only the tools through which we transmit these hallowed ways change.
The Messianic Age will not be a throwback to ancient times. On the contrary, we will experience the greatest advances and strides in all wisdom. But the spirit will be one that is timeless.
At that time we will be reunited with our ancestors, just as Joseph reunited with Jacob in our parsha. Our forebears will marvel at how we were able to preserve the old wine in new vessels, and we will be delighted at seeing how similar our values and practices are to our ancestors. May it happen immediately.

Moshiach Matters
The Talmud speak of two possible ways in which Mashiach can come: (a) "with the clouds of heaven"; (b) as "a poor man riding on a donkey." It may be suggested that these are not mutually-exclusive alternatives. Rather, Mashiach will be both powerfully exalted ("on the clouds of heaven") and humbly self-effacing ("a poor man riding on a donkey"). (From Exile to Redemption)
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