Vayigash 5783 – Lechu Neranenah
“But prayer is not an end in itself. It is a beginning. An opening up. A hardened heart beats with renewed passion, a dream is revived, a hope is rekindled, a soul starts to believe, a body soon begins to stir. Prayer ignites us to act. Instead of proceeding in a state of numb acceptance, prayer rouses us out of our indifference, it resurrects our outrage, our anger, our longing, our faith, our strength.” – Rabbi Naomi Levy
What is prayer if not a moment to pause and reflect? On Shabbat we are told in the Torah that we must refrain from work. But if that is the case, what is it that we are supposed to DO on Shabbat? How do we observe Shabbat in actuality? The opening word of Kabbalat Shabbat are “lechu”, “let’s go!” from Psalm 95. Lechu demands an action. We have to go out. We have to make a change in order to enter Shabbat.
And that is what Vayigash tells us. Some sort of encounter has to take place. In the parsha it says “Vayigash Eilav.” “And Judah went up to him.” It would seem at first glance that the encounter in this story is between Judah and Joseph. But Rabbi Dovid of Kotzk says that that word “Eilav” is superfluous, we don’t need it there. And so he reads it differently. He says the Eilav means “to himself.” Judah went over with himself his actions and his words, and then went up to speak to Joseph.
Both of these actions are needed on Shabbat. We need to go out and come together in community, but we also need to take a moment to pause and look inwards at ourselves. Kabbalat Shabbat is written in the plural, “lechu neranenah,” “Let us go out,” but “Vayigash eilav” is in the singular. These words tell us that before we join together on Shabbat, we have to take a moment to turn inwards, to look at ourselves.
On this Shabbat in particular we have the opportunity for even greater reflection. As we approach the end of the calendar year, What is it that we need this Shabbat? How can this pause help us jump into action in 2023? My hope for us this Shabbat is that we are able to take time to pause and reflect, and to actualize our reflections, hopes, and dreams in the coming year.