Parashat Vayigash: Vayigash, Goshen, and Mashiah
Parashat Vayigash tells of Yaakob and his family’s move from Eretz Yisrael to Canaan. We read that as Yaakob made his way toward Egypt, he sent his son Yehuda ahead, for the purpose of establishing a place of learning: "He sent Yehuda ahead to teach him the way to Goshen" (46:28).
The Torah in this verse refers to the area of Goshen with the term "Goshna," which means "to Goshen." Rav Nissan Alpert (1927-1986) noted that the word "Goshna" has the same numerical value as the word "Mashiah" (358) – indicating some connection between this context and our hopes for the arrival of Mashiah. Rav Alpert explained that the word "Goshen" is closely related to the first word and name of the Parasha – "Vayigash" – which means "approach." The Parasha begins with Yehuda approaching Yosef ("Vayigash Elav Yehuda") to plead that he allow Binyamin to return to his father. We find this term again a bit later, after Yosef reveals his identity to his brothers, when he says to them, "Geshu Na Elai" – "draw near, if you will" – and they obliged – "Vayigashyu" (45:4). This Parasha is about "Vayigash" – Yosef and his brothers "approaching" one another, drawing near to each other, after many years of separation. Just before the brothers threw Yosef into the pit, the Torah writes, "they saw him from afar" ("Va’yiru Oto Me’rahok" – 37:18). As long as they saw each other "from afar," as long as there was a distance between them, there was hatred and animosity. This distance is rectified in Parashat Vayigash, when Yosef and his brothers draw near to each other, and bond together in peace and harmony.
For good reason, Rav Alpert commented, the word "Goshna" – which alludes to the theme of closeness between Jews – is equal to "Mashiah." The Messianic Era will arrive only at the time of "Vayigash," when we, like Yosef and his brothers, set aside our petty differences and come together in peace and unity. When we are able to eliminate the distance between neighbors, between family members, between spouses, and between business associates, and work together with goodwill and mutual respect, then Mashiah can come. As long as we "see each other from afar," if we keep our distance from fellow Jews with whom we have differences, our nation will not experience redemption. The redemption will come once we achieve "Vayigash Elav Yehuda" – closeness between Jews, genuine feelings of camaraderie and goodwill that overshadow the differences and disagreements that unfortunately separate us from one another.